American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
March 2016

Homeownership Rate Falls in 2015


2. New Tools:  

BEST CUSTOMERS, 11th edition
WHO’S BUYING REPORTS, 14-volume series


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

1. Hot Trends

Homeownership Rate Falls in 2015
The nation’s homeownership rate fell to 63.7 percent in 2015, according to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey. This is down from the peak of 69.0 percent in 2004–a 5.3 percentage point decline. Among householders aged 30 to 44, the rate fell by more than 10 percentage points during those years…
Homeownership rate in 2015
(and percentage-point decline since peak year of 2004)
Total households: 63.7% (-5.3)
Under 25: 21.8% (-3.4)
25 to 29: 31.7% (-8.5)
30 to 34: 45.9% (-11.5)
35 to 39: 55.3% (-10.9)
40 to 44: 61.6% (-10.3)
45 to 54: 70.0% (-7.2)
55 to 64: 75.4% (-6.3)
65-plus: 78.9% (-2.2)
The long-term decline in homeownership, now in its second decade, shows no sign of stopping. Between 2014 and 2015, every age group with the sole exception of householders under age 25 (whose homeownership rate climbed by a minuscule 0.1 percentage points) experienced a decline in homeownership. The overall homeownership rate fell by 0.8 percentage points between 2014 and 2015, greater than the 0.6 percentage-point decline in the previous year.
2016 Voters by Race, and Hispanic Origin
Older non-Hispanic Whites (aged 45 or older) will account for only 47 percent of voters in the 2016 presidential election, according to a Demo Memo analysis of Census Bureau data. This is well below their 55 percent share of voters in the 2014 mid-term election and slightly below their 48 percent share of voters in the 2012 presidential election.
The 47 percent figure is based on the Census Bureau’s 2016 population projections by age, race, and Hispanic origin. The citizenship and voting rates of 2012 were applied to each racial and ethnic group, and those rates were applied to non-Hispanic Whites by age. The result is the projected demographics of voters in 2016…
Projected voters in 2016 by race and Hispanic origin
Total voters: 141 million
Non-Hispanic Whites: 101 million (72% of voters)
Blacks: 19 million (14% of voters)
Hispanics: 13 million (9% of voters)
Asians: 5 million (3% of voters)
Other races: 3 million (2% of voters)
Projected voters in 2016 by age, race, and Hispanic origin
Total voters: 141 million
Minorities: 40 million (28% of voters)
Non-Hispanic Whites under 45: 35 million (25% of voters)
Non-Hispanic Whites 45 or older: 67 million (47% of voters)
Note that Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities, along with non-Hispanic Whites under age 45, are likely to account for the 53 percent majority of voters in the 2016 presidential election.
Who Actually Votes?
Americans are even less likely to vote than it appears. That’s what Pew Research Center discovered when it asked its American Trends Panel respondents whether they had voted in the 2014 midterm election and then attempted to match those who said they “definitely voted” with commercially available national voter files. Sixteen percent of respondents who said they “definitely voted” had no record of doing so. The demographic segments least likely to vote are also the ones most likely to say they voted when they did not…
  • Young adults: among 18-to 29-year-olds who say they “definitely voted” in the 2014 midterm election, fully 35 percent had no record of doing so. The figure was a smaller 17 percent among 30-to-49-year-olds, 15 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds, and just 7 percent among people aged 65 or older.
  • Hispanics: among Hispanics who say they “definitely voted” in the 2014 midterm election, a substantial 27 percent had no record of doing so. Among Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites, the figure was a smaller 15 percent.
These findings suggest that voting levels measured by the Voting and Registration Supplement to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), fielded every two years, are overstated–particularly for young adults and Hispanics. The Census Bureau notes the discrepancy in its report, Who Votes? Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978-2014: “Voting rates from the sample surveys such as the CPS are higher than official results.” But, says the bureau, “the CPS remains the most comprehensive data source available for examining the social and demographic composition of the electorate in federal elections.”
In other words, the CPS is the best we’ve got. According to the CPS, 20 percent of 18-to-29-year-old citizens and 27 percent of Hispanic citizens reported voting in the 2014 midterm election. Pew’s analysis suggests that actual voting rates for these two important segments of the electorate are in fact much lower.
College Freshmen More Liberal
One in three college freshmen identifies him or herself as “far left” or “liberal,” according to The American Freshmen: National Norms Fall 2015–the highest share since 1973. The figure peaked in 1971 at 41 percent and hit a low of 21 percent in 1981…
College freshmen who say they are “far left” or “liberal”
2015: 33.5%
2010: 30.2%
2005: 30.5%
2000: 27.7%
1995: 25.2%
1990: 26.5%
1985: 24.1%
1981: 21.0% (low)
1980: 22.7%
1975: 32.6%
1971: 40.9% (high)
Only 22 percent of today’s college students identify themselves as “conservative” or “far right,” and 45 percent describe themselves as “middle of the road.”
What Do College Students Carry
in their Wallets?
They carry cash, according to a Sallie Mae survey of college students aged 18 to 24. Eighty-six percent of students say they have cash in their wallet. Almost as many–85 percent–carry a debit card. A smaller 56 percent have a credit card.
The Sallie Mae survey probes the financial attitudes, behavior, and knowledge of students at technical schools, two-year colleges, and four-year institutions. According to the survey, 52 percent have student loans, 23 percent have credit card debt, 13 percent have vehicle loans, 9 percent have a mortgage, and 7 percent have medical debt.
Twenty-four percent of college students say they are excellent money managers, and another 41 percent say they are good at it. Only 29 percent say they are just average, and 6 percent rate themselves as not very good or poor. Interestingly, those who consider themselves excellent at managing their money are less likely than those who rate their skills more modestly to correctly answer a three-question financial literacy test.
The Top Three Occupations by Race, Hispanic Origin and Generation

Among the hundreds of detailed occupations examined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the three occupations with the largest percentage of…

Asians (average = 6%) miscellaneous personal appearance workers, i.e. workers in nail salons (55.3%); medical scientists (33.8%); software developers (31.9%)
Blacks (average = 11%) barbers (36.3%); nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides (35.9%); postal service clerks (30.8%)
Hispanics (average = 16%) drywall installers (61.5%); roofers (58.1%); graders and sorters of agricultural products (54.0%)
Non-Hispanic Whites (average = 64%) tool and die makers (95.5%); aircraft pilots (94.9%); farmers and ranchers (94.1%)

Baby Boomers (average = 31%) buyers and purchasing agents of farm products (64.0%); judges and magistrates (62.4%); crossing guards (62.1%)
Generation Xers (average = 26%) supervisors of police and detectives (44.7%); brokerage clerks (40.0%); financial examiners (40.0%)
Millennials (average = 38%) food and tobacco roasting machine operators (65.7%); extraction work helpers (65.0%); occupational therapy assistants and aides (64.3%)
iGeneration (average = 5%) lifeguards (56.4%); counter attendants in coffee shops (54.2%); restaurant hosts and hostesses (49.8%)

Attitudes Toward “Medicare-for-All”
Half of Americans are in favor of guaranteed health insurance coverage in which all Americans would get their insurance through a single government health plan, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But support varies greatly by age…
Percent somewhat or strongly in favor of universal coverage
Aged 18 to 29: 65%
Aged 30 to 49: 55%
Aged 50 to 64: 41%
Aged 65-plus: 36%
Interestingly, the level of public support depends on the term used to describe universal coverage. Fully 63 percent of Americans have a somewhat or very positive reaction to the term “Medicare-for-all,” and 57 percent feel positive about the term “guaranteed universal health coverage.” But support falls to 44 percent if the term “single-payer health insurance system” is used, and just 38 percent feel positive about “socialized medicine.”
Time Spent in Health-Related Self Care
Many Americans have health needs that require daily attention. The American Time Use Survey measures this time, calling it “health-related self care,” and documents its growing importance in daily life as people age. Health-related self care includes activities such as taking medicine or vitamins; resting because of an illness or injury; giving oneself a shot; testing blood sugar levels; taking insulin; applying ointment; putting ice on an injury; changing oxygen; doing childbirth, stress management, or therapeutic exercises; and even meditating (not religious).
According to a Demo Memo analysis of unpublished tables from the American Time Use Survey, 7 percent of people aged 15 or older engage in health-related self care as a primary activity on an average day. Among people aged 75 or older, the proportion is one in five…
Percent participating in health-related self care on average day
Aged 15 to 19: 1%
Aged 20 to 24: 2%
Aged 25 to 34: 2%
Aged 35 to 44: 3%
Aged 45 to 54: 8%
Aged 55 to 64: 9%
Aged 65 to 74: 12%
Aged 75-plus: 21%
The time devoted to health-related self care is not trivial. Those who engage in health-related self care on an average day spend more than an hour attending to their health needs.
Financial Stability, Upward Mobility, Depend on Family Help
In a pinch, families come to the rescue. In the past year, 26 percent of American households provided financial assistance to family (or friends) who needed help with day-to-day expenses, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study. Analyzing data from its Survey of American Family Finances, Pew finds the helping households provided a median of $1,000 in assistance.
Some families do much more, providing their adult children with what Pew call “mobility-enhancing” funds: money for higher education and homeownership. According to Pew’s analysis of the 2013 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, 10 percent of adult children received financial help from their parents for home purchasing, and 31 percent received funds for higher education. Of course the wealthiest families are most likely to provide these funds. Among adults raised in the wealthiest one-third of families, 52 percent received money from their parents for higher education and 61 percent received money for home purchasing. Among those in the least wealthy one-third, the comparable figures are just 14 and 6 percent.
“The safety net provided to households by friends and relatives,” says Pew, “is a hidden dimension of the financial system and one that may reinforce existing advantages and disadvantages in family finances.”
Older Americans Are Deeper in Debt
Today’s older Americans have more debt than their predecessors, according to a Liberty Street Economics analysis. Among borrowers aged 50 to 80, aggregate debt grew 60 percent between 2003 and 2015, while the debt of younger borrowers fell slightly during those years.
Tapping into the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, which is based on Equifax credit data, the researchers examined five types of debt (mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, student loans, and home equity lines of credit) to see how balances have changed. Among borrowers aged 50 or older, the per capita balance of each type of debt except credit cards increased between 2003 and 2015. Among younger borrowers, the per capita balance of each type of debt except student loans fell during those years.
The aging of borrowers is good news, say the researchers, because older borrowers are more likely to pay back their loans. So far there is no evidence of greater delinquency among older borrowers as their debt level has grown. The aging of the nation’s borrowers is likely to mean “greater balance sheet stability” and less “credit-fueled consumption growth.”
The Life of American Workers in 1915
Canned goods were sophisticated, overweight was a sign of good health, there was no standard time, and phonographs were the must-have tech. These are just a few of the fascinating facts revealed by a Monthly Labor Review article about the lives of workers in 1915. By examining the demographics, occupations, working conditions, and home life of workers in 1915, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ economist Carol Boyd Leon reveals how much has changed…
  • In 1915, nearly 1 in 3 workers was a farm laborer versus fewer than 1 in 100 today.
  • In 1915, 56% of men aged 65 or older were in the labor force versus 23% today.
  • In 1915, the average man earned $687 per year ($16,063 in 2015 dollars) compared with median earnings of $40,638 for male workers today.

This look at the life of American workers in 1915 also reveals some things that haven’t changed. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Shredded Wheat were popular breakfast foods in 1915, for example, and there was a debate about whether cereal was a healthier breakfast food than meat or eggs.

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


Percentage of households that include children (of any age), by race and Hispanic origin…

Total: 39%
Asian: 48%
Black: 43%
Hispanic: 56%
Non-Hispanic White: 35%


Here are all new and expanded one-stop resources for understanding American consumers–vital, cost effective information. Get the answers you need for business success in today’s competitive economy!
Quick and easy access is the goal of the new 13th edition of The American Marketplace: Demographics and Spending Patterns. Designed for convenience, The American Marketplace draws on scores of government sources to give you a population profile of the United States in one handy volume. The American Marketplace reveals the latest demographic trends and tells the American story. It examines changing lifestyles in rich detail, from growing racial and ethnic diversity to declining homeownership, from disappearing nuclear families to shifting patterns of household spending, from another baby bust to new attitudes toward gay marriage. The American Marketplace is a reference tool that will help you cut through the clutter and track the trends.
You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at New, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.
Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-937737-21-4) 655 pages

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-937737-22-1)

PDF with Excel (single-user): 103.95 (978-1-937737-23-8)
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 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.
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)
Find out how the American marketplace has been transformed by the Great Recession in this edition of Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, with all-important 2013 spending data. In Best Customers you 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. 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, 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)

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 editions reveal product-by-product spending trends before (2000-06) and after (2006-13) the Great Recession. 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 its hundreds of tables, 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 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.

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.


Median income of households headed by 45-to-54-year-olds, 2000 and 2014 (in 2014 dollars)…

2014: $70,832
2000: $79,241

Source: American Marketplace, 13th ed.