In no particular order, here are 50 things about our economy that blow my mind:
50. The S&P 500 is down 3% from 2000. But a version of the index that holds all 500 companies in equal amounts (rather than skewed by market cap) is up nearly 90%.
49. According to economist Tyler Cowen, "Thirty years ago, college graduates made 40 percent more than high school graduates, but now the gap is about 83 percent."
48. Of all non-farm jobs created since June 2009, 88% have gone to men. "The share of men saying the economy was improving jumped to 41 percent in March, compared with 26 percent of women," reports Bloomberg.
47. A record $6 billion will be spent on the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Adjusted for inflation, that's 60% more than the 2000 elections.
46. In 2010, nearly half of Americans lived in a household that received direct government benefits. That's up from 37.7% in 1998.
45. Adjusted for inflation, federal tax revenue was the same in 2009 as it was 1997, even though the U.S. population grew by 37 million during that period.
44. In November 2009, the nationwide unemployment was around 10%. But dig into demographics, and the rates are incredibly skewed. The unemployment rate for young, uneducated African-American males was 48.5%. For Caucasian females over age 45 with a college degree, it was 3.7%.
43. About the same number of people was awarded bachelor's degrees in 2010 as filed for personal bankruptcy (1.6 million).
42. According to The Wall Street Journal, "U.S. refineries are producing more gasoline and diesel than ever. And Americans' gasoline consumption is at an 11-year-low."
41. Americans spend an average of 1.8% of their income on alcohol and tobacco. In the U.K., it's 4.8%.
40. In 2009, 5% of Americans accounted for 50% of all health care costs.
39. As the market was "flat" from 2000 to 2010, S&P 500 companies paid out more than $2 trillion in dividends.
38. The Census Bureau now classifies nearly 1 in 6 Americans as living in poverty.
37. The number of Americans who don't have health insurance: 49.9 million.
36. The share of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare going to the bottom fifth of households (based on income) has fallen from 54% in 1979 to 36% in 2007, according to Binyamin Appelbaum of The New York Times.
35. According to Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, China's growth creates the equivalent of a new Greece every 90 days.
34. With a drop in jobs came a surge in grad-school aspirations. The number of people taking the LSAT (law school entrance) exam surged 20% from 2008 to 2009.
33. From 2007 to 2009, Sheldon Adelson's personal net worth fell by $24 billion. That's about equal to what the federal government spends on agriculture every year. (He's since made most of it back.)
32. The entire town of Pray, Mont., was listed for sale last month. The asking price is $1.4 million (or what Sheldon Adelson lost every 30 minutes in 2008).
31. A full 17 years after college graduation, Yale economist Lisa Kahn found those who began their careers in tough economic times earned less than those who started their careers when the economy was strong.
30. Americans age 60 and older owe $36 billion in student loans.
29. The average vehicle on the road today is 10.8 years old -- an all-time high, and two years older than in 2000.
28. Just five companies, Apple
27. In 2011, the federal government took in $2.3 trillion in tax revenue, and spent the exact same amount on military, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone.
26. Auto sales in regions where debt accumulation was highest during the bubble years are down some 40% since 2005. In regions where debt accumulation was the lowest, sales are actually up 30%.
25. According to Pew, for every dollar newspapers make in new digital advertising, they've lost $7 from traditional print media.
24. In the S&P 500, 334 companies earned more profit in 2011 than in 2007, when the economy peaked. The median gain is 38%.
23. According to economist Michael Spence, sectors of the economy that have no direct foreign competition added more than 27 million jobs from 1990 to 2008. Those that do added almost none.
22. Capital expenditures among S&P 500 companies set a record in the fourth quarter of 2011.
20. The average salary for a Silicon Valley tech worker surpassed $100,000 in 2011.
19. In 2009 and 2010, 93% of the nation's income growth went to 1% of wage earners, according to economist Emmanuel Saez; 15,600 households captured 37% of all national growth.
18. Growth in health care spending in 2010 was the lowest in half a century.
17. In 2010, President Barack Obama set what looked like an unrealistic goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. After growing an average of 16% a year since, the goal is on track to be met ahead of schedule.
16. Good news: 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009. Bad news: Manufacturing employment is still down almost 6 million since 2000.
15. Total government employment has shrunk by almost 700,000 since 2009.
14. According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the number of prescription drugs issued fell by 1.1% last year, and doctor visits fell 4.7%.
13. We imported 60.3% of our oil in 2005. In 2010, that figure was 49.2%, and will likely drop further as domestic production rises.
12. For the first time since 1949, the U.S. is now a net exporter of fuel products like gasoline and diesel.
11. The period from March 2009 to March 2012 was one of the strongest three-year market rallies in history -- stronger, in fact, than the 1996-1999 bull market.
10. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 30% of companies in 2011 had job openings for six months or longer, but couldn't find the right person to hire.
9. Adjusted for inflation, the bursting of the housing bubble destroyed wealth equal to half a 1950s America.
8. At 66.9%, the homeownership rate in America is down considerably from the 2004 peak, but is still above the long-term average of 66%.
7. U.S. apartment vacancies are now at a decade low.
6. A 2008 Swedish study found that unemployed people gradually lose the ability to read.
5. Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, ran the numbers and found that as unemployment goes up, the divorce rate goes down.
4. According to the Airline Quality Rating, 2011 was the best year ever for airline industry performance (lost baggage, on-time departures, etc.).
3. The combined assets of Wal-Mart's
2. As the economy tanked in 2009, the top 25 hedge fund managers collectively earned $25.3 billion. On average, that works out to about $2,000 a minute for each manager.
1. Household debt payments as a percent of income are now the lowest since 1994.
For more on the recession's effect on the economy, check out my latest ebook, 50 Years in the Making: The Great Recession and Its Aftermath for your iPad, Kindle, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It's short, packed with information, and costs less than a buck.
Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Microsoft and Wal-Mart. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Wal-Mart Stores, Microsoft, and Apple, and has recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Google, Pfizer, Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple and Microsoft, and creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
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