American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
August 2015

Election Demographics



2. New! 2013 Spending, 2014 Attitudes:
BEST CUSTOMERS, 11th edition
WHO’S BUYING REPORTS, 14-volume series


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

1. Hot Trends

Election Demographics  

The demographics of mid-term elections are strikingly different from the demographics of presidential elections, so expect voters in the 2016 presidential election to be different from those in the 2014 mid-term. In mid-terms, older non-Hispanic Whites overwhelm the polls, according to Census Bureau data. In presidential elections, younger and more diverse voters are in control. Take a look…

Non-Hispanic Whites aged 45+ as a share of voters

2014 mid-term election: 55%

2012 presidential election: 48%

2010 mid-term election: 54%

2008 presidential election: 47%


Older non-Hispanic Whites dominate mid-term elections because they are much more likely to vote in those years. In the 2014 mid-term, fully 56 percent of non-Hispanic Whites aged 45 or older cast a vote. In contrast, only 31 percent of younger non-Hispanic Whites and 33 percent of minorities went to the polls. (Note: calculations of voting rates are based on citizen populations.)


Who Is a “Typical” American?

The 69 percent majority of Americans think of themselves as a “typical” American, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Older Americans are far more likely to see themselves as typical (78%) than young adults (55%). By race and Hispanic origin, here’s who thinks they’re typical…


Whites: 77%

Blacks: 61%

Hispanics: 48%


Old vs. Young: Wealth Gap Grows 

The old are wealthier than the young, a pattern that has long been true. But the gap is growing, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, researchers compared median wealth in 1989 and 2013 for households in three broad age groups. Here are the trends (in 2013 dollars)…


Old (aged 62+): +40%

Median wealth in 2013: $209,590

Median wealth in 1989: $149,728


Middle-aged (aged 40-61): -31%

Median wealth in 2013: $106,094

Median wealth in 1989: $153,759


Young (under age 40): -28%

Median wealth in 2013: $14,220

Median wealth in 1989: $19,830


The old are doing better, and the middle-aged and young are falling behind. There’s more bad news: “Baby boomers, who are now retiring in droves, are likely to be less well-off than their ‘old’ counterparts in the two previous generations,” the Fed researchers conclude. “And it looks as if members of the next two generations–Generation X and Generation Y (the millennials)–might also end up less wealthy than the generation before them.”


Changes in Living Arrangements

The living arrangements of adults have changed dramatically in nearly every age group over the past half-century. A new set of tables available from the Census Bureau allows you to see at a glance the changes since 1967…


Living with Mom and Dad (18 to 24): Surprisingly, men in this age group are no more likely to live with their parents today (57 percent) than their counterparts were in 1967 (58 percent). Women, however, are more likely to live with Mom and Dad as they postpone marriage. The 51 percent majority were living in their parents’ home in 2014, up from 42 percent in 1967.


Staying single (25 to 34): Men and women in this age group are much less likely to be married and living with a spouse today than in 1967. For women, the married share fell from 83 to 47 percent between 1967 and 2014. For men the figure plummeted from 83 to 38 percent.


Stability, sort of (35 to 64): This is the age group with the most stability in living arrangements. Nevertheless, between 1967 and 2014 the married share fell substantially among both men (from 86 to 65 percent) and women (from 77 to 62 percent).


More couples (65 to 74): The married share of women in this age group climbed from 45 to 57 percent between 1967 and 2014, while men’s married share barely changed (falling from 79 to 75 percent). Behind the change for women is increasing life expectancy, delaying widowhood.


Living alone (75-plus): Men and women who have been widowed are now more likely to live alone than with other relatives (mostly adult children). In 1967, the reverse was true.


Fewer Millennials Live Independently

Young adults aged 25 to 34 are less likely to live independently than were their counterparts in 2007, according to an analysis of Current Population Survey data by Pew Research Center. Pew defines independent living as heading one’s own household or living in a household headed by a spouse, unmarried partner, or other nonrelative.


The percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds who live independently is 86 percent among those with a bachelor’s degree, 79 percent among those with some college, and 75 percent among those with a high school diploma or less education. Regardless of education, the figures are lower in 2015 than in 2007.


Behind the decline in independent living is less money. Median weekly earnings for 25-to-34-year-olds in 2015 are below the 2007 level, after adjusting for inflation…


Median weekly earnings of 25-to-34-year-olds

Bachelor’s-plus: $951 in 2015, less than the $966 of 2007.

Some college: $560 in 2015, well below the $640 of 2007.

High school or less: $500 in 2015, below the $527 in 2007.


First-Time Homebuyer Watch:  

2nd Quarter 2015

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 fell in the second quarter of 2015 to an all-time low of 45.2 percent, according to the Census Bureau.


Historically, homeownership became the norm in the 30-to-34 age group–rising above 50 percent. But beginning in 2007, the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds went into a tailspin. In the second quarter of 2011, the rate fell below 50 percent for the first time. In the past year, the homeownership rate of the age group fell 1.3 percentage points. Is this the bottom for the age group? Only time will tell.


The new age of first-time home buying is 35 to 39, but even this age group has been slipping toward the 50-percent threshold. The homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds stood at 55.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015–the same as in the first quarter and the age group’s record low. Since peaking in the first quarter of 2007, the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds has fallen by more than 10 percentage points.


Nationally, the homeownership rate fell to 63.4 percent in the second quarter of 2015, down from 64.7 percent a year earlier.


Interest in Space Exploration

Americans are “meh” about space exploration, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey. The 45 percent plurality of the public is only moderately interested in outer space. Another 33 percent are not at all interested. Only 22 percent are very interested in space exploration. Men are twice as likely as women to be enthusiasts…


Very interested in space exploration

Men: 31%

Women: 15%


Moderately interested in space exploration

Men: 46%

Women: 44%


Not at all interested in space exploration

Men: 23%

Women: 41%


Decline in Teen Sexual Activity

Today’s teenagers are not as sexually active as teens were a decade or two ago, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That explains, in part, why the birth rate of 15-to-19-year-olds fell 57 percent between 1991 (the peak year) and 2013. Among never-married females aged 15 to 19, the percentage who have ever had sexual intercourse fell from 51 percent in 1988 to 44 percent in 2011-13. Among their male counterparts, the figure fell from 60 to 47 percent.


Another reason for the decline in the teen birth rate is the increased use of emergency contraception. Twenty-two percent of sexually active 15-to-19-year-old females in 2011-13 had ever used emergency contraception, up from only 8 percent who had ever used it in 2002.


Fewer Unauthorized Immigrants  

Despite all the talk about “illegals” in the United States, their number has declined slightly since the peak year of 2007, according to Pew Research Center. There were an estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, down from the peak of 12.2 million in 2007. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, fewer unauthorized immigrants have been crossing our borders.


The 62 percent majority of unauthorized immigrant adults have been in the United States for at least 10 years, according to a 2012 analysis by Pew. More than one in three (38 percent) live with their children born in the United States.


The IRA Tax Shelter

Is the IRA more of a tax shelter for the affluent rather than a vehicle for retirement savings? It looks that way. According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute analysis, few IRA owners aged 60 or older take money out of their account until they reach the age (70.5) when withdrawals become mandatory…


Percentage of traditional IRA owners who withdrew in 2013

Aged 60 to 64: 18.9%

Aged 65 to 70: 27.2%

Aged 71 to 79: 83.6%

Aged 80-plus: 85.8%


Once they reach the mandatory age, according to EBRI, most IRA owners withdraw only the minimum required. Just one in four traditional IRA owners aged 71 or older withdrew more than the minimum amount from his or her account in 2013.


Wine Is Drink of Choice for College Grads

The stereotype is true: the higher the educational attainment, the greater the preference for wine over beer, according to Gallup. Here is what college graduates say they drink most often (compared to the average American)…


44% of college grads most often drink wine (34%)

35% of college grads most often drink beer (42%)

18% of college grads most often drink liquor (21%)


As the educational attainment of the population has increased, alcoholic beverage spending has shifted toward wine, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Between 2000 and 2013, the share of the alcohol dollar devoted to beer fell from 47 to 42 percent, while the share devoted to wine climbed from 26 to 30 percent.


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


The average American household spends more on rent ($3,181) than on mortgage interest ($2,949).


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 20th edition of Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What reveals who spent what in 2013 and the products and services they purchased. Also in this edition are comparisons of spending before (2000-06) and after (2006-13) the Great Recession and a look at the 2010-13 spending recovery.


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: $144.00 (978-1-9935114-80-2) 612 pages

Paper: $109.95 (978-1-933588-22-3)

PDF with Excel (single user): $109.95 (978-1-933588-24-7)


Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, 11th 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 2013 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 (2000-06) and after (2006-13) the Great Recession, examines the all-important 2010-13 spending recovery, 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: $138.00 (978-1-933588-07-0) 808 pages

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-933588-17-9)
PDF with Excel (single user): $103.95 (978-1-933588-21-6)
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 2013 data. They reveal product-by-product spending trends before (2000-06) and after (2006-13) the Great Recession as well as the all-important 2010-13 spending recovery. The Who’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’s 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 at, where you can also download these unique reference tools as PDFs linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Individual reports: $68.95; 14-volume series: $850.00.

The 8th edition of American Attitudes: Who Thinks What about the Issues That Shape Our Lives coaxes the results of the latest (2014) General Social Survey out of the shadows of academia and makes them readily available for researchers who want to explore Americans’ changing attitudes.


In hundreds of tables, the 8th edition of American Attitudes taps into the General Social Survey gold mine, revealing what the public thinks about topics ranging from gay marriage to the American Dream, how Americans feel about their financial status, their hopes for their children, how often they socialize and with whom, their religious beliefs, patriotic feelings, political leanings, and standard of living. It shows those answers by the demographics that shape perspective–sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, education, and region. American Attitudes reveals 2014 attitudes by demographic characteristic, and for every 2014 question for which historical data are available, it shows the history of response all the way back to the first appearance of the question on the General Social Survey. American Attitudes provides the latest data and is an invaluable resource for historic trends.


American Attitudes is organized into 10 chapters: Public Arena, Government and Politics, Patriotism, Science and Information, Religion, Work and Money, Family and Friends, Diversity, Personal Outlook, and Sexuality.


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

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-933588-20-9) 604 pages

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-885070-47-0)
PDF with Excel (single-user): $103.95 (978-1-885070-66-1)

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.


“Do you think the number of immigrants to America nowadays should be increased, remain the same, or reduced?”

Increased: 14%
Stay same: 43%
Reduced: 43%