American Consumers Newsletter

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

Mobility Rate Near Record Low in 2014-15



2. Data you need: Spending and 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

Mobility Rate Near Record Low in 2014-15
Americans still aren’t moving much. Only 11.6 percent of U.S. residents aged 1 or older as of March 2015 had moved in the previous 12 months, according to the Census Bureau. This mobility rate is just 0.1 percentage points above the all-time low of 11.5 percent recorded in 2013-14. The tiny increase was due to a bump up in movers from abroad.
Among homeowners, only 5.1 percent moved in the 2014-15 time period, a bit higher than the all-time low of 5.0 percent in 2013-14. Among renters, the mobility rate fell to an all-time low of 24.0 percent in 2014-15.
How Many Renters Want to Buy?
The number of renter-occupied homes grew by more than 1.3 million in the past year, according to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey, while the number of owner-occupied homes inched up by just 123,000. From the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015, the nation’s homeownership rate fell from 64.4 to 63.7 percent.
Clearly the number of renters is surging, which begs the question: how many of those renters are wannabe homeowners who could potentially energize the housing market? Shedding some light on that question is the Federal Reserve Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, fielded in 2013 and 2014. The survey asked renters why they rent. In the 2013 survey, 10 percent of renters identified themselves as wannabe homeowners, looking to buy a house. When the Feds surveyed the same respondents in 2014, one-third of the renters who wanted to buy had become homeowners.
60% Experience Financial Shocks
In a year’s time, most households experience a financial shock, according to Pew Charitable Trusts Survey of American Family Finances. In the survey, Pew asked a nationally representative sample of Americans whether they had experienced any of the following unexpected financial shocks: income cut; hospitalization; separation, divorce, or widowhood; major vehicle repair; major housing repair; or some other large unexpected expense. The 60 percent majority of households had experienced one or more shocks in the past 12 months…
30% had a major car repair
24% had a major home repair
24% experienced a hospital trip
24% experienced a pay cut
3% experienced separation, divorce, or widowhood
10% experienced other large, unexpected expenses
How much do these shocks set people back? The median cost of the average household’s most expensive shock was $2,000, says Pew. Such shocks have psychological consequences. Among households that did not experience a shock, 64 percent reported feeling financially secure. Among those who did, only 41 percent felt secure.
Will You Run Out of Money In Retirement?
What are the chances you will run out of money in retirement? An Employee Benefit Research Institute study determined that 12 percent of older American have no assets of any kind at the time of death. But did they run out money or never have it to begin with?
It’s likely they never had it, according to an National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of how the assets of older Americans change over time. “The level of assets of individuals approaching the end of life is determined primarily by the assets these individuals held many years earlier,” the NBER researchers conclude after examining the assets of individuals in the Health and Retirement Study from first observation in 1992 or 1993 until their death. “Most of those with limited assets at death also had limited assets earlier in life. They did not run out of assets in retirement; they never had many assets to begin with.”
Men 65-Plus Who Work Full-Time
Overall, 15.1 percent of men aged 65 or older work full-time, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the 2015 Current Population Survey. But the figure varies greatly by educational attainment…
Men aged 65+ who work full-time by education
  7.5%: no high school diploma
12.6%: high school graduate only
15.0%: some college
14.5%: Associate’s degree
20.7%: Bachelor’s degree
16.8%: Master’s degree
28.5%: Doctoral degree
32.6%: Professional degree
The pattern is the same for women, although the percentages are less. Among women aged 65 or older, the percentage who work full-time ranges from 4 percent among those with less than a high school education to a high of 24 percent among those with a professional degree.
Tech Has Gotten A Whole Lot Cheaper
If you’re frustrated over the rising cost of necessities, a Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis should cheer you up. Some of the items we value most highly are a whole lot cheaper than they used to be. For every $100 you spent on these items in 1997, an item of similar quality today would cost…
Television: $5.50
Computer: $4.20
Computer software: $36.80
Internet service: $76.00
Audio equipment: $40.40
Photographic equipment: $41.50
Some tech is more expensive. For every $100 you devoted to cable service in 1997, you now pay a larger $180.50.
Smartphones: Portal to the Internet
When deciding how important mobile is to e-commerce efforts, companies might think it’s about as important as desktop sites. After all, 68 percent of Americans own a smartphone and a larger 73 percent own a desktop or laptop computer, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. But this way of thinking ignores two important facts: 1) Mobile Internet usage exceeds PC Internet usage; and 2) Mobile devices (smartphones) are the primary portal to the Internet for many important segments of the population…
Blacks (percent owning)
Smartphone: 68%
Desktop/laptop: 45%
Aged 18 to 29 (percent owning)
Smartphone: 86%
Desktop/laptop: 78%
Urban residents (percent owning)
Smartphone: 72%
Desktop/laptop: 67%
Seismic Shift in Spending on Groceries
There has been “a seismic shift in how people eat,” according to a New York Times headline. Per capita consumption of soda, orange juice, and cereal are all down as Americans more fresh food and less sugar, reports the Times. A Demo Memo analysis of Consumer Expenditure Survey data confirms the Times story. Here are the trends in average household spending for selected groceries between 2006 (the year overall household spending peaked) and 2014….
% change in average household spending, 2006-14 (2014$)
23% decline in spending on ice cream
23% decline in spending on fresh fruit juice
22% decline in spending on cakes and cupcakes
16% decline in spending on carbonated drinks
16% decline in spending on canned and bottled fruit juice
10% decline in spending on cookies
9% decline in spending on cereal
5% decline in spending on candy and chewing gum
In contrast to these declines, the average household spent more on: bacon (31%), yogurt (31%), nuts (23%), fresh fruit (19%), and fresh vegetables (6%). Clearly, the New York Times is on to something.
Television News Still Tops
Television still dominates the news, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey. The 45 percent plurality of Americans gets most of its information about events in the news from television. A smaller 35 percent get most of their news from the Internet and 10 percent from newspapers. There are big differences by generation, however…
Percent who get most of their news from television
Millennials: 29%
Gen Xers: 49%
Boomers: 50%
Older: 65%
Percent who get most of their news from the Internet
Millennials: 57%
Gen Xers: 32%
Boomers: 27%
Older: 6%
Note: In 2014, Millennials were 20 to 37; Gen Xers were 38 to 49; Boomers were 50 to 68.
Who Is Multiracial?
The size of the multiracial population depends on how questions about race are asked, reports Pew Research Center. In a test of how different questions produce different results, Pew surveyed a nationally representative sample of adults and found the following…
Standard two-questions: This is the methodology currently used in the decennial census, Current Population Survey, and American Community Survey. Respondents are first asked to select their race(s), then they are asked about Hispanic origin. Result: 3.7 percent of the population is multiracial.
Single question with Hispanic as an option: This single race-or-origin question is being considered for the 2020 census, replacing the above methodology. Respondents are asked to select their race or origin, with Hispanic as one of the choices. Result: 4.8 percent of the population is multiracial (not including Hispanic responses).
Family history questions: Respondents are asked not only about their own race but also the race of their parents and grandparents. Result: 6.9 percent of the population is multiracial. When respondents are asked about the race of great-grandparents and earlier ancestors, the multiracial share rises to 13.1 percent.
Hate Crimes in 2014
There were 5,479 hate crime incidents in 2014, according to the FBI. Most (5,462) involved a single bias–meaning the perpetrator targeted only one characteristic (such as race, sexual orientation, etc.). Race is the single most frequently targeted characteristic, accounting for 47 percent of single-bias hate crimes in 2014. Sexual orientation and religion each accounted for 19 percent of the total, ethnicity for 12 percent, gender identity and disability for 2 percent each, and gender for the remaining 1 percent.
Top 10 hate crimes by targeted characteristic
Anti-Black: 1,621 (29.7%)
Anti-Jewish: 609 (11.1%)
Anti-gay: 599 (11.0%)
Anti-White: 593 (10.9%)
Anti-not Hispanic: 349 (6.4%)
Anti-Hispanic: 299 (5.5%)
Anti LGBT:  241 (4.4%)
Anti-Islamic: 154 (2.8%)
Anti-Asian: 140 (2.6%)
Anti-American Indian: 130 (2.4%)
There is some good news in the hate crime report. Most jurisdictions reported no hate crimes in 2014. Of the 15,494 law enforcement agencies participating in the Hate Crime Statistics Program, only 1,666 reported the occurrence of a hate crime.
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


Who spends the most on coffee? Households headed by people aged 65 to 74 spend the most–25 percent more than the average household.


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 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)


Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, 11th edition

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)
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 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.

Millennials are most likely to say their finances are getting better, with 54 percent feeling upbeat in 2014.