American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
January 2006

Are Boomers Over the Hill?




Twenty-five percent of wives earn more than their husbands.


Are Boomers Over the Hill?

You’ve heard the news. The oldest boomers, born in 1946, began to turn 60 on January 1. The Census Bureau has issued the obligatory press release with a list of facts about what it calls perhaps the “most celebrated generation.” With boomers turning 60, however, is the celebration over? Are boomers marching over the hill and into obscurity?

Not yet.

Twenty years ago I wrote a book entitled 100 Predictions for the Baby Boom. Making predictions about the middle age of a trend-setting generation was an exciting task because the middle-aged spend more than the young and the old, control much of government and business, and set the tone for the nation as a whole. Many had high expectations for boomers as they ushered in civil rights, womens rights, rock music, and high-tech. In reality, members of older generations (Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem) pioneered most of these concepts. But boomers eagerly followed in their footsteps.

The mediocrity of the baby-boom generations middle age has been a disappointment to many. As boomers entered their forties and fifties, an increasingly competitive economy eroded their idealism. In its place emerged a mean-spirited grab for an increasingly elusive middle-class lifestyle. As this lifestyle became more precarious with downsizing and outsourcing, boomer generosity turned to desperation, tolerance turned to fear, and the “anything goes” attitude morphed into “my way or the highway.” Boomers split into conservative and liberal, rich and poor, religious and secular, Republican and Democrat, with no greater bond than their birthdates and Woodstock nostalgia.

The growing conservatism of boomers and their polarization in middle age were two of the 100 predictions I made twenty years ago. That these (and most of the other predictions) have come true is evidence that demographic trends, combined with an understanding of life stage wants and needs, can shine a bright light into the future. Pointing that light ahead another decade or two reveals more of what is to come. Surprisingly, the light shows boomers not marching over the hill, but taking a stand at the top. Three more predictions for the baby boom in old age:

1. Boomers will be more alike than ever before. As boomers enter their sixties and seventies, all 78 million will share one life stage. Because of the lengthy nineteen-year span of the generation, it has never before been so unified. In the past, the generation straddled life stages: toddlers to teens, college students to mid-career executives, parents to empty-nesters. As boomers enter their sixties, the similarities will begin to outweigh the differences. Their labor force status will be retired. Their economic status will be reduced. Their family status will be empty-nester. Their health status will be declining.

2. Boomers will be more powerful than ever before. Because of their shared wants and needs, they will speak with one voice. United in life stage, they will be a potent force in the voting booth. As they give up the rat race, cooperation will replace competition. The angry din of political polarization will diminish. Moderate voices will be heard. For boomers, the top issues will be the wellbeing of younger generations (children and grandchildren), health care, and Social Security. To the surprise of many, Social Security will be their primary source of income.

3. Boomers will rediscover their social conscience. As they ponder their legacy, boomers will abandon the “all about me” ethic. As they watch their children and grandchildren struggle with many of the same issues they faced, they will roll up their sleeves to help. By reaching out, they will become friendlier, more tolerant and generous, more curious and open, more likely to empathize with the underdog and less likely to side with the top dog. They may even regain their sense of humor.

The final prediction in 100 Predictions for the Baby Boom was this: Boomers will not grow old gracefully. Maybe so, but theres no doubt boomers will grow old much more gracefully than they grew middle-aged.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications
If you have any questions or comments about the above editorial, e-mail New Strategist at



Among the 4 million babies born in the United States each year, 35 percent are born out-of- wedlock.

2. Q & A

How High is American Fertility?

The United States population is about to top 300 million. On January 1, 2006, the Census Bureau’s population clock (see Cool Research Links below for more about this) estimated a population of nearly 298 million people. The nation gains a net of one person every 14 seconds. At this rate, we will surpass 300 million late this year, on December 20, 2006.

A nation’s population can grow in only two waysbirths and immigration. Births contribute the most to our population growth by far, with one birth occurring in the United States every eight seconds. International migration adds one person to the population every 31 seconds. Death subtracts one person every twelve seconds.

For a developed country, the United States birthrate is high. In the world as a whole, the average woman has 2.60 children during her lifetime, according to data published by the CIA (see Cool Research Links below for more on the CIA’s demographic data). The CIA ranks countries by their total fertility rate–a measure of the number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, based on current age-specific fertility rates. From the highest fertility rate to the lowest, the United States ranks 131 out of 226 countries. Niger was number 1, with 7.55 children born per woman. In the United States, the average woman has 2.08 children. Our fertility rate is higher than the rate in 42 percent of the world’s countries, including Chile, Turkey, Vietnam, and Brazil. Hong Kong has the lowest fertility rate, with the average woman having only 0.93 children in her lifetime.

In 2004, the United States recorded 4.1 million births, rivaling the numbers during the peak of the baby boom. Of course our population is much larger now than it was then, which means the fertility rate has dropped sharply since the 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, our rate remains above those in most of the developed world. While the higher fertility rate of the nation’s Hispanics (2.82 children) sometimes gets the credit (or blame) for this, in fact the fertility rate of non-Hispanic white women (1.85 children) is higher than the fertility rate of 31 percent of the world’s countries including most of Western Europe and Canada. The fertility rate of non-Hispanic white women is higher than the fertility rate of women in Cuba, Puerto Rico, China, and Iran.



In California, 41 percent of the state’s population speaks a language other than English at home.


To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out these useful web sites: population/www/popclockus.html
The Census Bureau tracks the growth of the U.S. and world populations, displaying current estimates on its home page. As of January 1, 2006, it estimated the U.S. population at 297,821,175, a figure that will climb by 191,314 this month. The ticking of the population clock is based on the bureaus estimates of births (one every eight seconds), deaths (one every twelve seconds), and international migration (one additional person every 31 seconds). The world population clock displays estimates produced by the bureau’s International Programs Center. As of January 1, the world population stood at 6,488,578,564, a figure rising by 6.3 million a month. For those who want to stay on top of these trends, the bureau provides the information through an RSS feed. publications/factbook/
If you want up-to-date demographic and political information on just about every nation in the world, check out the CIA’s The World Factbook. The online edition of the Factbook is updated every two weeks, providing national-level data for countries, territories, and dependencies. The Factbook compares and contrasts the world’s countries through tables of demographic, geographic, economic, and political data organized alphabetically by country or ranked by characteristic. The demographics in the Factbook include items such as age, population growth, life expectancy, HIV prevalence, religion, and language. The geographical information includes fascinating facts such as the highest and lowest elevation in each country. Country profiles are accessible through a drop-down menu. Published annually since 1962, the Factbook remained classified until 1971.



Householders under age 25 spend more on cell phone service than on landline service.


New books and reports from New Strategist are here to help you with your research on American consumers. Order online at, call toll free at 800/848-0842, or fax your order to 607/277-5009. The books and reports can be downloaded or ordered in hardcopy.

The U.S. population is growing more diverse much faster than many had predicted. To help you keep up, the new fifth edition of Racial and Ethnic Diversity: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Whites includes, in addition to detailed estimates and projections of the U.S. population by race and Hispanic origin, the latest socioeconomic data on blacks and Hispanics and more comprehensive information on Asians and American Indians. (Racial and Ethnic Diversity, 5th ed.; 1-885070-71-3; hardcover; 696 pgs.; $94.95)

Updated editions of American Men: Who They Are and How They Live and American Women: Who They Are and How They Live record the many dimensions of men’s and women’s lives as the twenty-first century unfolds. New in these editions are more details on the characteristics of Asians, the latest labor force projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and up-to-date population projections from the Census Bureau. (American Men, 2nd ed.; 1-885070-72-1; hardcover; 344 pgs.; $89.95; American Women, 3rd ed.; 1-885070-73-X; hardcover; 360 pgs.; $89.95)

Knowing how consumers spend their dollars is the key to understanding where our economy is headed. The tenth edition of Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What is for those who want to know the who, what, and why of household spending. New to this edition are detailed spending tables for Asian households. Also new are detailed spending tables for households with incomes of $100,000 or more–up to $150,000 or more. (Household Spending, 10th ed.; 1-885070-87-X; hardcover; 656 pgs.; $94.95)

Finally, be sure to check out the popular Who’s Buying series, which has been updated and expanded. New to the series is Who’s Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin, which includes the first available spending data for Asian households. Also new is Who’s Buying: Executive Summary of Household Spending, a good choice for researchers who want to understand the big picture of where the money goes and how demographics affect spending.

Go to to see detailed tables of contents, download books, or order hardcopies.



College graduates control 58 percent of leisure spending on airline fares.


The Who’s Buying series of reports, which are based on the tenth edition of Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What, bring you even more detail about how much Americans spend by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, race and Hispanic origin, region of residence, and education. To round out the picture, each report also presents who-are-the-best-customers analyses of the data, showing at a glance the demographics of household spending product by product.

The Who’s Buying series includes:

  • Who’s Buying Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Beverages, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Apparel
  • Who’s Buying at Restaurants and Carry-Outs, 3rd ed.
  • Who’s Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin
  • Who’s Buying Entertainment, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying: Executive Summary of Household Spending
  • Who’s Buying for Pets, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying for Travel, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Groceries, 3rd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Health Care, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Household Furnishings, Services, and Supplies, 3rd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Information Products and Services, 2nd ed.
  • Who’s Buying Transportation, 2nd ed.


If you need the big picture for items ranging from wine to cell phones, from pet food to sofas, go to to see detailed tables of contents and to order downloads or hardcopy.



The percentage of women who are overweight ranges from 25 percent among Asians to 69 percent among blacks.