American Consumers Newsletter

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

Teenagers on the Phone

3. Cool Research Links: MEPS CUSTOMIZED TABLES



Married couples with children spend 49 percent more than the average household on cell phone service.


Teenagers on the Phone

Ithaca College recently hosted the first cellular phone film festival, receiving 178 entries from high school and college students across the country. Each submitted a 30-second film produced entirely with a cell phone camera. Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, told the Ithaca Journal that the film festival was about “acknowledging a sea change in the way this generation processes information” < NEWS01/601270363/1002>.

To teens, the cell phone is a watch, a camera, a television, and a computer. But its most- important function remains to connect them to people (not places). The changing and expanding function of the telephone is profound and largely ignored by anyone over the age of 30. Interestingly, teenagers themselves are oblivious to it, having grown up with a cell phone cupped in their hand. And adults without teen contacts also are clueless. But the parents of teens know it by the ring tones–at home, in the car, on the street, at Grandma’s house–wherever and whenever. There is a continuous buzz of communication. This is not the way it was when we were kids, when mom and dad controlled the family’s single landline phone. Compared to today’s teens, we were in solitary confinement.

Cell phones offer teenagers the kind of instant communication not experienced since our ancestors huddled together in a cave. They erase the miles and break down the walls we humans have spent tens of thousands of years putting between ourselves. The 56 percent majority of teens aged 12 to 19 own a cell phone, up from 25 percent in 2000, according to Teenage Research Unlimited (http://, which tracks teen attitudes and behavior in a twice- yearly survey. Half of all teens own a cell phone by age 14. Here are the numbers:

Cell phone ownership by age, fall 2005
(Teenage Research Unlimited)

  • Age 12 36%
  • Age 13 39%
  • Age 14 50%
  • Age 15 58%
  • Age 16 66%
  • Age 17 61%
  • Age 18 69%
  • Age 19 71%

According to an ethnographic study of teen cell phone use by Context-based Research Group (http://, teens without cell phones are out of the all- important social loop. They may miss out on more than that since cell phones are becoming the Grand Central Station of high-tech, and most teens are flocking to the platform. Where will it take them? It will be fun to find out.

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



The 54 percent majority of men aged 45 to 64 have taken at least one prescription drug in the past month.


2. Q & A

How Many Americans Are Gay?

Believe it or not, the government asks and tells. According to recently released results from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), nine out of ten people aged 15 to 44 (the survey is limited to that age group) identify themselves as heterosexual. The proportions are almost identical for men (90.2 percent) and women (90.3 percent) and do not vary significantly by age within the 15-to-44 age group.

Does this mean the remaining 10 percent are homosexual? Maybe, but it is hard to tell. The government allows respondents to identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or “something else.” Among men aged 15 to 44, only 2.3 percent identified themselves as homosexual, 1.8 percent said they are bisexual, 3.9 percent stated they are something else, and 1.8 percent did not answer the question. Among women the proportions are 1.3 percent homosexual, 2.8 percent bisexual, 3.8 percent something else, and 1.8 percent refused to answer. Just what is “something else”? According to the government report Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of Age, United States, 2002 (http://, some of those saying they are something else may not understand the terminology. So the 10 percent figure may be too large–or maybe not.

The NSFG explores sexual orientation in other ways as well. It asks respondents whether they are attracted more to people of the same sex or the opposite sex. It also asks about lifetime and past-year sexual contact with opposite-sex and same-sex partners. On the attraction question, 92 percent of men aged 15 to 44 say they are attracted only to females–more than the 90 percent of men who say they are heterosexual. Among women, 86 percent say they are attracted only to males–less than the 90 percent who say they are heterosexual. Six percent of men say they have had oral or anal sex with another man in their lifetime. A smaller 2.9 percent say they have done so in the past twelve months. Eleven percent of women say they have had a sexual experience with another woman in their lifetime, and 4.4 percent have done so in the past year (the survey asked men and women different questions regarding same-sex experiences, making it difficult to compare results by gender).

It is likely that many people do not want the government to know their sexual leanings– especially if they are gay. The NSFG interviews were conducted in a way to minimize this hesitancy. Respondents wore headphones and entered their responses into a computer, preventing the interviewer from knowing how they answered the questions. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt homosexuality was underreported, making the 10 percent figure as good a guess as any.

If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at


Asians account for 21 percent of the population of the San Francisco metropolitan area.


To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out this useful web site:

Now you can customize Medical Expenditure Panel Survey tables. One of the frustrations of demographic research is the lack of demographic segmentation detailed enough to allow for meaningful analysis. This is especially true with health statistics, which too often combine age groups into categories so broad–such as by using a 45-to-64 age group–that it is almost impossible to tease out the trends. Just at the ages when chronic conditions become increasingly common, if not the norm, those trends are obscured by the use of the overly broad age group. Someone must be listening. The federal government’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) now allows users to customize its tables. Specifically, users can customize age breakdowns to the single-year-of-age level for a much closer examination of how health care consumption and spending change as people age. Check out this welcome innovation at the above web site.



Married couples without children at home (most of whom are empty-nesters) control 34 percent of household spending on leisure travel.


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. 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.



Women aged 65 or older spend one hour a day reading. Women under age 25 read for just eight minutes a day, on average.


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.



Blacks and Hispanics control 30 percent of spending on children’s clothes.