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Changing American Demographics

In the wake of our recent Presidential election there has been plenty of talk about the changing American demographics. The patter has been that the declining % of “White males”, a strong Republican constituency, and the corresponding growth of several ethnic groups had a significant impact on the outcome. Furthermore, the differences between the views of men and women (as if we didn’t know that already) also played a significant role in the election.

Be that as it may, for us marketing folk these trends are hardly new and have impacted business for many years.  Marketing lives in the world of segmentation, and marketers constantly seek a fuller understanding of the “prime prospect” for their goods and services in order to create the most effective tailored marketing programs.

Demographically, while we have traditionally seen our nation as a “melting pot”, the reality is that in post-World War II America through the 70s, this pot was thought of largely, though myopically, as families of European descent. Furthermore, married families with working father, homemaker mom in suburbia, with 2+ children were the norm, glamorized in early TV programs, Leave it to Beaver , Donna Reed Show, and others. The Baby Boomers (those born in 1946-1964) filled our schools, later our colleges and workplaces, and the leading edge of this group, are beginning to receive Medicare.

Thankfully our view has changed on how we view the melting pot, and the nature of what is a “household” has changed as well. In terms of ethnicity according to the U.S. Census there are now more than 50MM Hispanic/Latino Americans, more than 16% of the total population. In addition there are roughly 39MM Black/African Americans (13%), and 15MM Asian-Americans (5%).

Beyond the growth of ethnic groups, there are several other mega demographic trends which are shaping our changing nation:

1. Baby Boomers—as mentioned earlier this group is aging, and beginning to (grudgingly) leave the work force.

2. Single person households—now  28% of U.S. households, twice the % of 50 years ago.

3. Alternative lifestyles—On a state by state basis, the definition of “marriage” has been changing recognizing the legitimacy of same sex marriage, so perhaps we won’t even use the term “alternative” much longer.

4. Multi-generational households—reversing the trend of yesteryear, there’s a growing trend of multi-generational households, those containing 2+ generations of adults. Many of the Boomers “kids” (in their 20s) are returning to the roost, and sometimes grandma/grandpa too. Today 20% of all households have 2+ generations, and almost 5% have 3 generations.

What this means is basic, but powerful—politics and pocketbooks are no longer won through broad appeals, but rather segmented ones. Success at the polls and the marketplace is achieved by specific appeals to tightly defined audiences based on their needs and views.

Politicians now know it more than ever, just as marketers figured this out years ago.




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