Whereas beliefs, values, and customs describe the characteristics of the culture and subculture, demographics describe the observable characteristics of individuals living in the culture. Demographics include our physical traits, such as gender, race, age, and height; our economic traits, such as income, savings, and net worth; our occupation-related traits, including education; our location-related traits; and our family-related traits, such as marital status and number and age of children. Demographic trait compositions are constantly changing, and no American, Japanese, or Brazilian is "typical" anymore. There is no average family, no ordinary worker, no everyday wage and no traditional middle class.
Still, marketing managers must understand consumers intimately. Often, the best they can do is take a snapshot and try to understand what is happening in US culture in the early years of this century. As we see next, some trends are old; others are new. For instance, the aging of the population has been going on for several decades, but births and birth rates in recent years have been much higher than expected. Immigration is also greater than predicted, and so is the backlash against it. In the US, interstate migration to the south and west are old trends. What is new is heavier movement in the US from the Northeast rather than from the mid-West and rapid growth in the mountain states. Next, we examine nine demographic changes and how they affect marketing.
- Households are growing more slowly and getting older. About half of all households are aged 45 and older and growing at an annual rate of one per cent compared with nearly 2 per cent in the 1980s. Marketing communicators must plan for a greater number of middle-aged households, consumers who are experienced and have a better understanding of price and value. These consumers should have an interest in high-quality household goods and in-home health care.
- The demise of the traditional family. Married couples are a bare majority of US households. Only one-third of households have children under 18, and nearly one-fourth of households are people who live alone. However, married couples dominate the affluent market as the vast majority of very high-income households are married couples. The long-term trend of high growth in nontraditional types of households and lack of growth among married couples can only mean further segmentation of an already segmented marketplace.
- The continued increase in education. Most adults in the United States still have not completed college (approximately 67 per cent), but that number continues to decline. More and more people have attended some college or have an associate or technical degree. More skilled workers mean more knowledgeable and sophisticated consumers who expect more information about product attributes and benefits before making a purchase.
- Nonphysical jobs keep growing. Jobs that do not require physical strength keep growing in number. Virtually all job growth during the next 10 years will take place among service providers, especially in health care and social services. Because providing services requires little investment compared with producing consumer goods, we can expect continued high growth in small businesses, sole proprietorships, and other entrepreneurial activities. Also, the extremely high cost of employee benefits suggests that the use of temporary workers and independent contractors will continue to grow. Marketing managers must assess whether consumers who do not have corporate benefits will become more risk-averse because they lack the safety net of company-provided pension plans and medical insurance, If so, consumers may seek money-back guarantees or other product features that reduce risk. Marketing managers must also see whether people who work for themselves or for small firms are more time-conscious.
- Growing faster than expected. About 272 million people live in the United States. This is an increase of 18 million since 1990, and most of the growth has resulted from an unforeseen boom in births. The United States had about 20.4 million births between January 1990 and December 1994. This was more than in any five-year period since the last five years of the legendary baby boom (1960 to 1964), and 6 per cent more than in the late 1980s. The United States also experience the highest five-year immigration total (4.6 million) since the turn of the century, an increase of 31 per cent over the previous five years. The annual influx of nearly 1 million new residents has led to an increasingly diverse consumer marketplace, particularly among young people.
- The growth of minorities. Although white non-Hispanics have been the biggest contributors to the US population growth in the 1990s, Hispanics have been a close second. The number of Hispanics in the United States increased from 22 million in 1990 to 35 million in 2000. That number is nearly twice as many new residents as were added by African-Americans and Asians. If each minority segment keeps growing at current rates, Hispanics will outnumber African Americans in ten years. This trend will be particularly important for marketing communicators that target certain regions, because Hispanics and Asians are more geographically concentrated than African-Americans.
- Baby boomers become middle-aged. More than half of Americans are aged 35 or older, and the oldest baby boomers are now aged 55. The largest ten-year age group, people aged 41-50, has been growing as it absorbs the younger half of the baby boom generation. The number of people in this segment reached a peak in 2000 and then started to decline. The fastest-growing age group is middle-aged people aged 45-54, the age at which income and spending peak. Middle-aged people are also the least likely of all age groups to change their residence. This combination of high growth, high income, and low mobility will provide considerable lift to discretionary spending, particularly in the categories of home furnishings, education, and insurance.
- People in the US are moving south. More than half (54 per cent) of US residents live in the ten largest states, and more than half of US population growth between 1990 and 1999 occurred in these ten states. New York had the largest population of all states in 1950, but in the 1990s, fast-growing Texas pushed the barely growing New York to number three. One reason for the explosive growth in the southern states is the influx of people from other countries. More than half of the four million immigrants that located in the United States between 1990 and 1995 moved to California, Texas, or Florida.
- The middle class gets hammered. According to the US Census Bureau, the share of aggregate household income earned by the middle 60 per cent of households has shrunk from 52 per cent in 1973 to 49 per cent 25 years later. Meanwhile, the share of such income earned by the top 20 per cent (average income USD 98,600) increased from 44 per cent to 48 per cent. In other words, the total purchasing power of the top 20 per cent of US households now equals that of the middle 60 per cent.7