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July 22, 2013

Next month we’ll be releasing the results from our 37th annual study of the lives, lifestyles and media habits of Affluent Americans. Each year, as we analyze the results, I’m always struck by the tremendous diversity of the Affluent population. In general terms, Affluents continue to skew “educated married White Boomer,” but they nevertheless represent tremendous diversity in age, ethnicity, occupation and interests. 

As always, we’ll define “Affluent” as adults living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income (HHI). Just 20% of all U.S. households, Affluents hold approximately 70% of U.S. net worth. We profile Ultra Affluent ($250K+ HHI) and Wealthy ($500K+ HHI) consumers as well.

Generation: Affluents average almost 46 years old, slightly younger than the general adult population. While Boomers are the largest single generation within the Affluent population (39%), they are outnumbered by the combination of Gen Xers and Millennials, who together are more than half of the Affluent population. (I’m also struck by the fact that Baby Boomers have almost entirely aged out of the “coveted 18-49 demographic” that was largely invented with them in mind; born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers are now aged 49 to 67.) 

Culture: Nearly one-fourth of Affluents can be described as multi-cultural, with Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians each comprising about 7% of the Affluent population. In addition, roughly one-in-ten Affluents were born outside the United States, and 17% speak a non-English language at home (tremendous diversity is seen here as well; nearly half speak Spanish, and more than two dozen languages are represented).

Occupation: Compared to the general population, Affluents are most distinct in their educational attainment (two-thirds are college graduates, more than twice the rate of the general population), and career path (two-thirds are in professional/managerial positions, almost three times the rate of the general population). Conversely, it stands that one-third are not college graduates, and one-third are not in professional/managerial positions. More generally, the Affluent population spans a broad occupational continuum, from business owners and C-suite executives (each about 15% of the Affluent population) to retired individuals and those not employed outside the home (each about 10%). 

Geography: Affluents are widely dispersed throughout the four major Census regions: South (33%), West (25%), Northeast (22%) and Midwest (20%). The large number in the South may surprise some, and it is partly a result of the expansive definition of “South,” which includes Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C. In fact, relative to the 37% of the general population that live in the South, Affluents are slightly under-represented there; in contrast, Affluents are over-represented in the Northeast, a skew that is even more dramatic among Ultra Affluent and Wealthy consumers. 

Interests: The greatest diversity in the Affluent population lies not in demographics but, rather, in their interests and passions (and, by extension, their media use). In each of these areas, Affluent diversity is reflected in “long tailed” distributions. For example, in exploring Affluent media use, we see long-tailed distributions when examining readership of print publications, viewership of television networks, and visitation of web sites – there are a handful of media properties that reach a broad swath of the population, and many media properties that reach smaller (but still substantial) segments of enthusiasts.

Clearly, Affluents are not a monolithic segment, and the sub-segments highlighted above only scratch the surface of their complexity. Anyone wishing to connect with Affluent consumers more effectively would do well to develop a deeper understanding of the diversity within the Affluent population.

By Steve Kraus 
Stephen Kraus is SVP, Chief Insights Officer, Audience Measurement Group, Ipsos MediaCT, author of three books on affluence and success in America.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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