American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
May 2014

The Peak in Men’s Income
1. Hot Trends: The Peak in Men’s Income, Millennial Marriage Projections, Baby Boom is Shrinking, and more
2. Q & A: How Do You Define the Middle Class?
3. Cool Links: Income of People Aged 55-Plus; Alternative Medicine; Adopted, Step, and Biological Children
4. All New Editions of our Reference Tools: 
To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

The Peak in Men’s Income   

Here’s an interesting exercise. Take the median income of American men since 1950, adjust it for inflation, and rank it from highest to lowest to determine the year in which men’s income peaked and how much it has declined since then.


Among all men aged 15 or older, median income peaked in 2000, at $37,791, according to the Census Bureau. Between the peak year and 2012, men’s median income fell 10 percent–to $33,904, after adjusting for inflation. A 10 percent decline sounds pretty bad, but if you do this exercise for men of working age (25 to 64), the trends are even worse…


Year in which men’s median income peaked

Aged 25 to 34: 1973

Aged 35 to 44: 1973

Aged 45 to 54: 1999

Aged 55 to 64: 2003


Percent change in men’s median income, peak year to 2012

Aged 25 to 34: -27%

Aged 35 to 44: -19%

Aged 45 to 54: -17%

Aged 55 to 64: -13%


The median income of men aged 25 to 34 has plunged since 1973, falling from $46,598 to $34,113 after adjusting for inflation–a loss of $12,485. Men aged 35 to 44 have lost $10,345 since their peak. Men aged 45 to 54 have lost $9,762, and men aged 55 to 64 have lost $6,407.

Millennial Marriage Projections

The millennial generation has postponed marriage for so long it will go into the record books. According to projections by the Urban Institute, millennials will be less likely to have married by age 40 than any generation in American history–even if they hurry up about it.


“The economic shock of the recession put marriage on hold for many young adults and marriage rates are returning slowly (if at all) to pre-recession levels,” explain the Urban Institute researchers in their report on the projections. Take a look at the trend: Among women, the percentage who had married by age 40 was 91 percent for older boomers, 87 percent for younger boomers, and 82 percent for generation X. Even if marriage rates return to pre-recession levels, only 77 percent of younger millennial women will have married by age 40. If marriage rates do not rebound, an even smaller 69 percent will have married by age 40. For millennial men, the respective figures are 73 percent with a rebound and 65 percent without.


“With respect to marriage at least, our projections indicate that many of these millennials will not recover in the future from the opportunities they have missed as young adults,” say the researchers. As if that’s not enough, there’s more bad news. Not only will millennials be the biggest “singles” generation in history, but marital status will split the generation into haves and have-nots. That’s because marriage rates are higher for college graduates, who earn more and tend to marry one another.

Underemployment Trends among Recent College Graduates   

For recent college graduates, underemployment is a bigger problem than unemployment, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Underemployment is defined as working at a job that does not require a college degree. A recent Fed study measured the underemployment rate of all college graduates and recent college graduates.


Among all college graduates, the underemployment rate (calculated by dividing the number of college graduates who are underemployed by the total employed) has remained steady at about 33 percent over the past two decades. Among recent college graduates (those aged 22 to 27), a larger 44 percent were underemployed in 2012.


Although today’s high rate of underemployment among recent college graduates is not unprecedented (the rate was 46 percent in 1990-91), there are some troubling differences between then and now. First, the share of recent college graduates who are underemployed in “good jobs” (with an average wage of about $45,000 per year) has declined from about half to about one-third. Second, the share of recent college graduates who work part-time has climbed from 14 to 23 percent.


“Taken as a whole, these trends provide evidence that the job prospects for recent college graduates have indeed worsened,” conclude the Fed researchers.

The 10 Largest Occupations, 2013    

Just 10 occupations employ more than one in five (21 percent) American workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are those occupations and the annual average wage for full-time workers in 2013, ranked by number employed…


1. Retail salesperson: $25,370

2. Cashier: $20,420

3. Food prep worker: $18,880

4. Office clerk: $29,990

5. Registered nurse: $68,910

6. Waiter or waitress: $20,880

7. Customer service rep: $33,370

8. Laborer: $26,690

9. Secretary: $34,000

10. Janitor: $25,140

Measuring the Losses of the Great Recession

“As society becomes richer over time, succeeding cohorts acquire more wealth than their predecessors,” notes an Urban Institute study. “The cohort born in 1943-51 were wealthier than those born in 1934-42 (at the same age), who were wealthier than those born in 1925-33.”


Until 1952, that is. For those born in 1952 and later, wealth began to shrink relative to preceding cohorts at the same age. The Great Recession had something to do with this reversal of fortune, according to the study, which estimates how much richer American households would be today if the Great Recession had never happened. Answer: 28.5 percent richer. For younger adults–Gen Xers in particular–the gap between what is and what could have been is much bigger–47 percent–because many were recent home buyers and disproportionately affected by the housing market collapse.
The Baby-Boom Generation is Shrinking 

As of July 1, 2013, there were 316,128,839 people in the United States. The Census Bureau recently released estimates of the population by single-year of age on that date. Here is the size, share of total population, age range, and birth date of each generation…


Recession generation: 19,868,088 (6.3%)

aged 4 or younger, born 2009 or later

iGeneration: 58,003,393 (18.3%)

aged 5 to 18, born 1995 to 2008

Millennial generation: 77,970,996 (24.7%)

aged 19 to 36, born 1977 to 1994

Generation X: 49,211,709 (15.6%)

aged 37 to 48, born 1965 to 1976

Baby-boom generation: 75,900,696 (24.0%)

aged 49 to 67, born 1946 to 1964

Older Americans: 35,173,957 (11.1%)

aged 68 or older, born 1945 or earlier


Aging is taking a toll on boomers and older Americans. Since 2010, the baby-boom generation has shrunk by 1.1 million, and the number of older Americans has declined by 5.1 million. Generation X is just beginning the downward slide, falling by 207,000. The millennial generation is still growing, however. Thanks to immigration, the number of millennials expanded by 1.4 million between 2010 and 2013.

What’s Behind the Pension Gap?   

There’s a yawning gap in the pension participation of older workers by income. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analyzed 1992 to 2010 data from the Health and Retirement Study to determine why this gap exists and what can be done about it.


Among people aged 50 to 58 in 2010, only 19 percent of those with household incomes below 300 percent of the poverty level participated in a pension at their workplace. Among workers in the same age group with incomes above 300 percent of the poverty line, the 56 percent majority participated in a pension at work. What accounts for this gap? The results of the analysis show that the low participation rate of low-income workers is due neither to a lack of interest nor to a lack of income. Instead, the gap is caused primarily by the lower employment rate of low-income individuals (they can’t get a job) and the lower probability that those with a job will be offered a pension by their employer (they can’t get a good job).


“Policies such as automatic enrollment that focus on pension eligibility or take-up are unlikely to close the pension coverage gap,” conclude the researchers. There’s no quick fix for closing the gap, they say, because it will require not only more jobs, but more “good jobs.”


Few Older Americans Own a Smartphone

Cell phones are popular among Americans aged 65 or older, but smartphones are not. According to a survey by Pew Research Internet Project, fully 77 percent of people aged 65 or older own a cell phone, including the majority of people aged 80 or older. Here are the percentages by age…


Own a cell phone

Aged 65 to 69: 84%

Aged 70 to 74: 84%

Aged 75 to 79: 72%

Aged 80-plus: 61%


Few of those cell phones are smartphones, however. Only 18 percent of people aged 65 or older own a smartphone, with the proportion falling steeply with age…


Own a smartphone

Aged 65 to 69: 29%

Aged 70 to 74: 21%

Aged 75 to 79: 10%

Aged 80-plus: 5%

The World’s Most Popular Food  

Will you dine on the world’s most popular food today? The answer is “yes” if you plan to eat pizza, according to the USDA. In an analysis of pizza consumption, government researchers estimate that a substantial 13 percent of Americans aged 2 or older eat pizza on an average day. A government analysis of pizza consumption might seem a bit silly, but it’s actually important because the dish plays such a big role in the American diet. Pizza accounts for a large portion of our daily intake of protein, calcium, sodium, and other nutrients–not to mention calories.


Younger Americans eat the most pizza. Twenty-two percent of children and teenagers (aged 6 to 19) eat pizza on an average day. Among those who do, the largest share have it for lunch (44 percent) and another 42 percent for dinner. The remainder eats it as a snack (10 percent) or even for breakfast (4 percent).

The likelihood of eating pizza on a given day declines with age to a low of 6 percent among people aged 60 or older.


Who Reads Hardcopy Books?

Forty-six percent of American adults say they read only hard copy books, according to a Harris survey. A slightly larger 48 percent read books in hard copy and in electronic formats, and 6 percent read only e-books. By generation, this is the percentage who…


Read books in hard copy only

Millennials: 34%

Gen Xers: 46%

Boomers: 52%

Matures: 57%

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 headed by people under age 35 with less than $10,000 in net worth: 56%.

2. Q & A

How Do You Define the Middle Class?

Social scientists have been trying to define the middle class for more than a century. In all that time, they have generated many theories but few facts. Recently, the Congressional Research Service summarized the two main approaches to defining the middle class: numerical and attitudinal.


Numerical: One way to define the middle class is statistically, using income data. Perhaps the easiest and most common way to define the middle class is to divide households into fifths based on their income. All households with incomes in the middle three quintiles, say, are defined as middle class. In 2012, this includes households with incomes between $20,591 and $104,087. Many would argue, however, that the lower end of the income range cannot be considered middle class, and the upper end surely extends well beyond $104,000. Many households with much higher incomes consider themselves middle rather than upper class.


Attitudinal. Perhaps the middle class is better defined as a feeling, a psychological pat on the back, the sense of satisfaction obtained when comparing your income to the income of those around you. Studies have found a strong link between relative income and self-reported happiness. “Relative income most affects well-being when a group’s income is above the average in its state but not at the top (90th percentile) of the income distribution,” notes the Congressional Research Service report. That feeling of well-being defines the middle class. If you don’t feel it, you’re not in it.

The General Social Survey probes feelings about class, with interesting results. Only 36 percent of millennials say they are middle class. The figure rises to 42 percent among gen Xers and 46 percent among boomers. It peaks at 60 percent among older Americans.


Percentage of Americans who favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder…

Blacks: 48%
Hispanics: 56%
Non-Hispanic whites: 71%


3. Cool Research Links

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

Every year the Social Security Administration compiles statistics on the economic status of people aged 55 or older. The latest report, available at this link, includes tables examining the demographics of older Americans as well as their overall income, sources of income, and relative importance of each source. For people aged 55 to 61, for example, earnings account for 73 percent of income. The importance of earnings drops to just 32 percent for people aged 65 to 69 and is as low as 4 percent among people aged 80 or older. Conversely, Social Security accounts for more than half of income beginning in the 70-to-74 age group and peaks at 70 percent for people aged 80 or older.

Every five years the federal government surveys the public about its use of “complementary” medicine, which is defined as “a group of diverse medical and health care interventions, practices, products, or disciplines that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.” The first findings from the 2012 survey results, available at this link, examine regional differences in the use of several categories of complementary medicine, among them yoga.  Nationally, 8.4 percent of adults practiced yoga in 2012. The practice peaks at 12.1 percent in the Pacific states and bottoms out at 5.1 percent in the East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The use of massage is also examined in the report, as is the use of dietary supplements and chiropractors.

Adopted, Step, and Biological Children         

At this link you can access a Census Bureau report on the nation’s adopted, step, and biological children. The great majority of the nation’s 65 million children under age 18 are biological children of the householder (62 million). Only 2.4 million are step children, and 1.6 million are adopted. Adopted children live in the most affluent households, with a median income of $73,378. Biological children live in the least affluent households, with a median income of $59,905. The parents of adopted children are much better educated than other parents. Thirty-nine percent have a bachelor’s degree or more education compared with 31 percent of biological parents and just 20 percent of step parents.


Percentage of Americans aged 67 or older who were raised…

In a city: 15%
In a suburb: 18%
In a small town: 35%
On a farm or in the country: 32%


Here are three 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!


The 9th edition of American Incomes: Demographics of Who Has Money is your map to the changing consumer landscape, exploring and explaining the economic status of Americans in the aftermath of the Great Recession. It looks at household income trends through 2012 by age, household type, race and Hispanic origin, education, region, and work status. It examines trends in the incomes of men and women by a variety of demographic characteristics. It includes an analysis of discretionary income, produced by New Strategist’s statisticians specifically for this book. It provides data on the wealth of American households, showing the impact of the Great Recession on household assets and debt. American Incomes includes the following data and analysis:

Household Incomes Chapter 1 examines trends in household income over the past 12 years. It also presents detailed 2012 household income statistics by age of householder, race and Hispanic origin of householder, type of household, and other important demographic characteristics.

Men’s Incomes Chapter 2 examines trends in men’s incomes and provides detailed 2012 income statistics for men by a variety of demographic characteristics.

Women’s Incomes Chapter 3 examines trends in women’s incomes and provides detailed 2012 income statistics for women by a variety of demographic characteristics. 

Discretionary Income Available only in American Incomes, the hard-to-find statistics in Chapter 4 show that despite the Great Recession most American households have some money to spend after paying taxes and buying necessities.

Wealth The statistics in Chapter 5, from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, provide a comprehensive portrait of the assets, debts, and net worth of American households by demographic characteristic.

Poverty Chapter 6 shows how poverty has grown and reveals the demographics of those who are falling behind.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages on New Strategist’s web site where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 450 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-32-6)

Hardcover:  $138.00 (978-1-940308-31-9)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-37-1)


Quick and easy access is the goal of the new 11th 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. Its hundreds of tables are organized into 11 chapters covering attitudes, education, health, housing, income, labor force, living arrangements, population, spending, time use, and wealth.

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 recovery in household spending, from another baby bust to new attitudes toward gay marriage. New to this edition of The American Marketplace are 2012 population estimates for the nation, states, and metropolitan areas, revealing changing patterns of growth. The Attitudes chapter has data from the 2012 General Social Survey. The Income chapter, with 2012 income statistics from the 2013 Current Population Survey, reveals the struggle to stay afloat.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 on  New Strategist’s web site, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 612 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-35-7)

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-940308-33-3)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-34-0)


The 7th edition of American Attitudes: Who Thinks What about the Issues That Shape Our Lives coaxes the results of the latest (2012) 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 7th edition of American Attitudestaps 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, 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 2012 attitudes by demographic characteristic, and for every 2012 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 Attitudesprovides the latest data and is an invaluable resource for historic trends


American Attitudes is organized into nine chapters: Public Arena, Government and Politics, 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 New Strategist’s web site, where you can also download this unique reference tools as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 484 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-30-2)

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-940308-29-6)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-36-4)