American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
June 2013

Big Changes in Metro, City, and County Populations




To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

Tracking Population Trends along the Rural-Urban Continuum      

The nation’s urban areas are growing, and rural areas are losing people. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the post-Great Recession era. An analysis of county population change along what is called the Rural-Urban Continuum shows the draw of cities and the abandonment of rural outposts.


The Rural-Urban Continuum is the federal government’s way of classifying counties by their degree of urbanity. The continuum is a scale ranging from 1 (the most urban counties, in metropolitan areas of 1 million or more) to 9 (the most rural counties, lacking any settlements of 2,500 or more people and not adjacent to a metropolitan area). If you sort the nation’s 3,143 counties by their rank on the continuum, then measure population change between 2010 and 2012 for each rank, this is the result…


1: 2.2%

2: 1.7%

3: 1.2%

4: 0.2%

5: 0.8%

6: -0.4%

7: -0.2%

8: -0.9%

9: -0.5%


The most urban counties (a 1 on the scale) grew faster than any other type of county between 2010 and 2012. The most rural counties (8 and 9 on the scale) experienced the biggest declines. This is an interesting twist in the age of the Internet, when location is supposed to be increasingly irrelevant.


City Growth by Size 

The more urban the county, the greater the population growth during the 2010 to 2012 time period, according to an analysis of the Census Bureau’s county population estimates by county rank on the Rural-Urban Continuum. But what about cities themselves? An analysis of population change in the nation’s 726 largest cities (incorporated places with populations of 50,000 or more) reveals growth to be uniform regardless of city size. Overall, the populations of large cities grew 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2012. This was nearly double the 1.1 percent growth outside these cities. By size of city, growth looked like this…


1,000,000 or more: 2.0%

500,000 to 999,999: 2.5%

250,000 to 499,999: 2.0%

200,000 to 249,999: 2.3%

150,000 to 199,999: 1.8%

100,000 to 149,999: 2.2%

50,000 to 99,999: 1.9%


Of the 726 largest cities, only 70 lost population between 2010 and 2012.


Race and Hispanic Origin, 2012    

The diversity of the American population is growing rapidly, as revealed by the Census Bureau’s latest population estimates. As of July 1, 2012, only 63.0 percent of the nation’s population was non-Hispanic white, down from 63.4 percent a year earlier. During those 12 months, the non-Hispanic white population grew by a minuscule 0.09 percent. This compares with a 1.3 percent increase in the black (alone or in combination) population, a 2.2 percent increase in the Hispanic population, and a 2.9 percent increase in the Asian (alone or in combination) population.


Behind the shrinking non-Hispanic white share of the population is negative natural increase. Between 2011 and 2012, for the first time, there were more deaths than births among non-Hispanic whites: 1,974,794 births and 1,987,213 deaths. Immigration was the only factor that prevented the number of non-Hispanic whites from declining. The Census Bureau projects that the number of non-Hispanic whites will begin to shrink in 2025. Here is the number (and percent distribution) of people by race and Hispanic origin in 2012…


Total: 313,914,040 (100.0%)

Asian: 18,855,104 (6.0%)

Black: 44,456,009 (14.2%)

Hispanic: 53,027,708 (16.9%)

Non-Hispanic white: 197,705,655 (63.0%)


Fewer Non-Hispanic Whites <Age 65  

The non-Hispanic white population will begin to decline in 2025, according to Census Bureau projections. But the decline is already occurring among non-Hispanic whites under age 65, according to Census Bureau estimates. While the total number of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. population continued to grow between 2011 and 2012 (up by 175,965), the number of non-Hispanic whites under age 65 fell by more than 1 million. Take a look at the change in the number of non-Hispanic whites by age between 2011 and 2012…


Under age 65: -1,123,144

Aged 65-plus: +1,299,109


Fewer Non-Hispanic Whites in Most Counties   

The non-Hispanic white population declined in most counties between 2011 and 2012, according to an analysis of Census Bureau estimates. The number of non-Hispanic whites fell in 2,201 of the nation’s 3,143 counties–or 70 percent of the total. Many of the counties with fewer non-Hispanic whites are rural, sparsely settled, and losing population.


At the other extreme, North and South Dakota accounted for half of the counties with the largest percent increase in non-Hispanic whites, lured by job opportunities in the oil fields. Between 2011 and 2012, the non-Hispanic white population grew by at least 5 percent in 24 counties, and 12 of those counties were in North or South Dakota.


How Many Grandchildren?

Most of the oldest boomers (born in 1946) have grandchildren, according to MetLife Mature Market Institute, which has been tracking this cohort for years. In 2012, fully 85 percent of the oldest boomers (who turned 66 last year) had grandchildren. Among boomer grandparents, the average number of grandchildren was 4.8.


Older Americans Don’t Like Living with Children

That’s a shocking statement, but it is supported by research findings: people aged 65 or older who live with children under age 18 are unhappier, angrier, more worried and stressed out than those who do not live with children–even after controlling for factors that might cause negative emotions.


In the delightfully titled study, “Grandpa and the Snapper: The Wellbeing of the Elderly Who Live with Children,” NBER researchers Angus Deaton and Arthur A. Stone examine data from the Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Index. They measure the happiness, enjoyment, worry, and stress of people who live with and without children under age 18. Younger adults gain both pleasure and pain from living with children, but for the elderly it’s all pain and no pleasure.


“Our evidence suggests that living with children under 18 is associated with worse outcomes on all measures,” say the researchers. “None of this is to argue that some elderly do not take pleasure in their grandchildren or in the children of those with whom they live. But, on average, we can find no evidence of it.”


Most Americans Own a Smartphone

Most of us now own a smartphone, according to a survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project. As of May 2013, the 56 percent majority of Americans aged 18 or older own a smartphone, up from 46 percent in 2012 and 35 percent in 2011. By age, smartphone ownership looks like this…


Aged 18 to 24: 79%

Aged 25 to 34: 81%

Aged 35 to 44: 69%

Aged 45 to 54: 55%

Aged 55 to 64: 39%

Aged 65-plus: 18%

Tablet Ownership Soars   

Thirty-four percent of American adults own a tablet computer, up from 25 percent a year ago, according to a Pew Internet and American Life survey. Which demographic segment experienced the biggest increase in tablet ownership over the past year? Parents. Just 26 percent of parents with children under age 18 owned a tablet computer in 2012, and 50 percent own one today.

Food Waste

Americans waste a lot of food, so much so that measuring food waste is one of the projects of the USDA’s Economic Research Service. In 2010, Americans did not eat 21 percent of the food they bought measured in pounds. The biggest waste, on a percentage basis, is fish and seafood (30 percent of pounds purchased are wasted) and fresh fruit and vegetables (24 to 25 percent). Measured in dollars, American consumers did not eat 9 percent of the food they bought. Of the $4,000 spent annually per person on food, $371 went into the garbage.


Characteristics of New Rental Units

Studies show that many homeowners would consider renting in the future. The nation’s developers are responding with skepticism. Judging from the characteristics of the 155,000 new rental units completed in 2012, builders are scaling back on amenities…

  • Only 58 percent had two or more bedrooms, down from 63 percent in 2011
  • Only 46 percent had two or more complete bathrooms, down from 51 percent in 2011


These are a sampling of posts published in the past few weeks in Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog. Please send questions or comments to


Householders aged 65 to 74 spend the most out-of-pocket on dental services, 53 percent more than the average household.


2. Q & A

What if We Eliminated Cancer?    

How much longer would Americans live if cancer were eliminated as a cause of death? That calculation has been done by the National Center for Health Statistics, and it has determined that the elimination of cancer would add 3.2 years to the average person’s life expectancy at birth. Those who would have died of cancer would gain an additional 14.6 years of life expectancy at birth.


By eliminating certain causes of death from life expectancy calculations, the National Center for Health Statistics has revealed how much time each killer steals from us. Starting with 1999-2001 mortality rates by age and cause of death, the NCHS painstakingly calculated how much longer we would live if we eliminated 33 different causes of death-from heart disease to motor vehicle accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and even the flu.


For the average person, the biggest life expectancy gain occurs when a major cause of death is eliminated–such as cancer or heart disease. If no one died of heart disease (the number-one killer), life expectancy at birth would increase by 3.7 years. Among those who would have died of heart disease, life expectancy at birth would rise by 11.8 years. The 11.8 year gain from eliminating heart disease is less than the 14.6 year gain from eliminating cancer because those who die of cancer are typically younger than those who die of heart disease, thus losing more time.


For people who would have died of a certain disease, the biggest gains in life expectancy at birth come from eliminating causes of death that typically strike younger adults. Eliminating HIV, for example, would add 34.7 years to life expectancy at birth for those the disease would have killed. Eliminating motor vehicle accidents would add 35.5 years to life expectancy for those who would have died in an accident. Eliminating homicide as a cause of death would add 44.1 years to the life expectancy of murder victims.


Empty-nesters (married couples without children at home) are the biggest spenders on ship fares, controlling 45 percent of the cruise ship market.


3. Cool Research Links

To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out these useful links.


At this link you can find a Census Bureau analysis of daytime populations, a demographic that is of vital importance not just to downtown businesses but also to emergency responders.Daytime population statistics explain why the EF5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20 resulted in relatively few deaths. The tornado occurred on a Monday afternoon, when many people were away from home. The Census Bureau analysis of daytime populations shows that Oklahoma City ranks 14th among the nation’s large cities (populations of 500,000 or more) in commuter-adjusted population change. During the work day, Oklahoma City’s population expands by 17 percent as commuters stream in from the suburbs (such as Moore) to their jobs in the city.


Births in 2012 

The baby bust continues, as you will discover at this link. The number of births in 2012 was unchanged from the number in 2011, according to a provisional count released by the National Center for Health Statistics. Only 3,958,000 babies were born in 2012, which is 8 percent below the all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007. It is interesting to note that the provisional count of births in 2012 is 6 percent below the 4,209,571 births that had been projected for 2012 by the Census Bureau. The baby bust has surprised even the experts.


The Connectivity Continuum  

Twenty-seven percent of Americans are highly connected to the Internet, accessing the Internet at multiple locations with multiple devices. Another 16 percent of Americans are not connected at all to the Internet, lacking any kind of computer or Internet use. These are the two extremes of what the Census Bureau calls the “connectivity continuum,” with everyone else at various stages of connectivity in between (home-only connectivity, single-device connectivity, etc.). At this link you can access the Census Bureau report, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2011. The report is admittedly dated, but it captures an historic moment–the transition from pre- to post-Internet age when connectivity sharply divided the population. The highly connected and the unconnected were the two largest segments of the population in 2011.


Households in the South spend 62 percent more than average on hunting and fishing equipment (a category that includes guns).

Who buys? What do they buy? How much do they spend? Get the dollar-for-dollar answers you need for business success in today’s competitive economy from these one-stop resources. You can’t get these data online!


Looking for customers? Repositioning your products? Americans are still spending money, but only those who are on top of the trends will know who the spenders are. The just-published 17th edition of Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What reveals who is spending and the products and services they buy. New to this edition are comparisons of spending before (2000-06) and after (2006-10) the Great Recession.


The annual spending data in Household Spending, the first edition of which was published more than twenty years ago in 1991, allow you to compare and contrast spending by a host of demographic characteristics. With this vital information, which is not available online, you can determine market potential, identify your best customers, and understand which segments account for the largest share of spending. You get the answers by the demographics that count–age, income, high-income households, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education.


You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables

Hardcover: $125.00 (978-1-935737-12-2) 612 pages

Paper: $94.95 (978-1-935737-13-9)


The new edition of American Buyers presents 2010 spending data in a groundbreaking guide to buying patterns–essential information in these difficult economic times.


While most businesses have a feel for what’s happening in their own establishments, American Buyers lets them see the big picture beyond their walls or website. The unique weekly and quarterly spending data, which are not available online, show the percentage of households that buy individual products and services and how much the buyers pay for them. American Buyers reveals the percentage of households that buy fast-food lunches during an average week, for example, and how much the buyers spend on them. It reveals the percentage of households buying airline tickets during an average quarter and how much the buyers spend on them. Even better, these vital spending data are detailed by the demographics that count– age, income, high-income households, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education.


You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at, where you can also download this unique reference tools as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.

Hardcover: $125.00 (978-1-935775-98-0) 396 pages

Paper: $94.95 (978-1-935775-99-7)
Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, 9th edition

Find out how the American marketplace has been transformed by the Great Recession in this new edition of Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, with all-important 2010 spending data.


In Best Customers, experts and novices alike can see at a glance who spends the most and who controls the largest market share–often surprisingly different–on over 300 products and services organized into 21 chapters such as Entertainment, Groceries, Computers, Telephones, etc.–everything a consumer might buy. Based on unpublished data–you can’t find this on the Internet–from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ valuable Consumer Expenditure Survey, Best Customers brings you insight into household spending by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education. Each product table is accompanied by text that identifies the best customers, analyzes spending patterns, describes spending trends before and after the Great Recession, and predicts future trends based on changing demographics.


You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.

Hardcover: $120.00 (978-1-937737-10-8) 810 pages

Paper: $89.95 (978-1-937737-11-5)
Who’s Buying Series

Get the demographics you need to target your markets with the 14-volume Who’s Buying Series, which can be purchased individually or as a set. Each volume gives you the facts about consumer spending by age, income, household type, race and Hispanic origin, region of residence, and education. To round out the spending picture, you also get who-are-the-best-customer analyses of the data. These new editions are must-haves updated with 2010 data and reveal spending trends before (2000-06) and after (2006-10) the Great Recession product by product. TheWho’s Buying Series includes Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic Beverages; Apparel; Entertainment; Groceries; Health Care; Household Furnishings, Services, and Supplies; Information and Consumer Electronics; Pets; Restaurants; Transportation; Travel; and Who’s Buying: Executive Summary, Who’s Buying by Age, and Who’ Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin.


You can see the introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages of each volume in the Who’s Buying Series, where you can also download these unique reference tools as PDFs linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Individual reports: $59.95; 14-volume series: $750.00.

For your convenience, all of New Strategist’s titles are available as searchable single- and multiple-user PDFs linked to spreadsheets of each data table so you can do your own analyses and create PowerPoint presentations.


Percentage of households that bought a newspaper or magazine subscription during an average quarter of 2010, by age of householder…

Under age 25: 4%
Aged 25 to 34: 7%
Aged 35 to 44: 12%
Aged 45 to 54: 16%
Aged 55 to 64: 23%
Aged 65-plus: 32%