Middle-aged, down-scale singles and divorced individuals in transitional small town and exurban apartments
Money is tight in Enduring Hardships, a segment of middle-aged singles and divorced individuals with one of the lowest average incomes in the country. Centered in Southern and Midwestern towns and small cities, these predominantly white households in their 30s and 40s often struggle to support even a simple lifestyle. Intact families are a rarity. A majority of households contain single or divorced individuals without children, and nearly a quarter are single parents raising children. Most of the adults have low educations - nearly two-thirds failed to finish high school - and they hold minimum-wage jobs as laborers and service-sector workers.
With their low incomes, few can afford to own a home. Over 95 percent of the householders are renters, living in low-rise projects and duplexes often located in tired and worn neighborhoods. They express concerns about crime, drugs and pollution. Many are also rootless and must deal with the challenges of a transient existence; only a small percentage belongs to a church, PTA or civic group. In this segment, two-thirds of the householders have lived at the same address for fewer than three years.
When they’re not at work, Enduring Hardships are unable to afford many leisure activities. They tend to spend their evenings at home, watching TV or listening to music. They’ll occasionally splurge on a ticket to a concert or a gambling junket to a casino. These folks don’t have the discretionary spending to regularly go to movies, plays, comedy clubs or even bars. If they want to get outdoor exercise, they’ll consider a fishing and camping trip. When they want to go out to dinner, it’s typically to a fast-food chain like Dairy Queen and Church’s Fried Chicken or to Golden Corral for a sit-down dinner.
As consumers, these price-sensitive shoppers worry about living beyond their means. With few investments and savings, they get by with occasional loans and paying only with cash or money orders. They patronize discount department stores like Kmart and Dollar General; anywhere else, they head right for the clearance racks. They shy away from a lot of new technology, but will buy electronics that enhance their TV viewing experience. When it comes to cars, they would like to buy a great-looking sports car with a lot of horsepower under the hood. However, nearly two-thirds cannot afford to own a car. Those who can typically settle for a used economy car or sedan that’s made in Detroit and won’t break down too often.
With nightlife out of the question, TV is the chief form of entertainment in this segment. Members watch movies, reality shows and sitcoms, and their favorite cable channels include Oxygen, TNT and CMT. With their low educational achievement, Enduring Hardships read few newspapers and magazines. They’re starting to become more comfortable with the Internet, but they go online infrequently. Social media sites are beginning to attract them to the virtual world, though.
These are stressed-out Americans. They dislike their low standard of living but aren’t sure if they can do much to improve it. Many would like to start their own business or try a new line of work. Though they’ve typically only lived in their neighborhood for a short time, they’re willing to join a protest march to help rid the streets of drugs and crime. Worried about the future, they seek out ways to improve their present lives.
Enduring Hardships are predominantly white and downscale, with most members single or divorced, though some are older single parents with dependent children. A majority of household heads are between the ages of 35 and 50, about 50 percent above average. The educational levels for the adults are low, with fewer than 5 percent having a college degree; 60 percent never finished high school. As a result, nearly two-thirds of the adults work at low-level sales or service-sector jobs, mostly in health care, food services or tech support, about twice the national average.
Located in exurban towns and small cities throughout the Midwest and South, Enduring Hardships tend to live in low-rise apartments and duplexes. Almost all the segment members are renters, restricted from home ownership by their low incomes. The neighborhoods are rarely luxurious; residents worry about crime and violence in the area. In these transitional neighborhoods, few have deep roots in the community. Enduring Hardships do not often belong to churches or civic groups. More than 40 percent have lived at the same address for less than a year, two-thirds for fewer than three years.
Enduring Hardships have quiet lifestyles. After long days at work, they’re happy to spend their evenings at home watching TV, listening to music or cooking. An above-average number also likes to collect sports memorabilia. These middle-aged singles will occasionally go out to a concert or go on a gambling trip. They’re three times as likely as the general population to gamble in Atlantic City. Otherwise, they don’t pursue nightlife or cultural activities. A modest market for athletic pursuits, they play no organized sports or take classes at health clubs. Among households with children, ice skating, water skiing and in-line skating are popular activities.
Enduring Hardships have little discretionary income for travel. However, some have taken a Bahamas cruise in the last three years, and they like to go on overnight camping trips. They rarely go to white-tablecloth restaurants, but these households do enjoy fast food, patronizing chains like Dairy Queen, Panera Bread and Church’s Fried Chicken. These patrons are open- minded enough to try to new foods and drinks, often responding to ads they see on TV.
Enduring Hardships like to shop, but they’re value-conscious consumers who shop at Kmart, Dollar General, T.J. Maxx and Ross Dress for Less. They’re late adopters when it comes to technology, but these self-described TV addicts buy DVD players, DVRs and big-screen TVs. Transporting such purchases home is another matter because nearly 60 percent of households don’t own a car. Those who do tend to drive a small economy car or standard sedan, and nine out of ten purchase used cars. In this “buy American” segment, most cars are made in Detroit.
In Enduring Hardships, TV is the main source of entertainment and a constant companion. They can’t afford premium channels, but they watch cable networks such as CMT, Bravo, Soapnet, Oxygen and TNT, and their favorite programming includes movies, history programs, reality shows and anything related to auto racing. Their tendency to listen to the radio is low, and they show little interest in subscribing to newspapers and most magazines.
Enduring Hardships may have low educations and limited skills, but they still express a need for personal achievement and a desire to be respected by their peers. They would like to start their own business and are willing to take risks to improve their standard of living. They admit that owning good-quality things gives them joy, but that often requires more money than they have.
In their neighborhoods threatened by crime, the men and women of this segment worry about what the future holds for them. Some say they feel alone in the world and helpless to change their lives. To combat this feeling, they try to control as much of their lives as possible, even if it just means keeping a neat house.
Politically, these Americans aren’t very active; they register to vote less than the average. About half of adults are Democrats, and they tend to be liberal to moderate on most issues. They tend to have a global perspective, and respect the customs of others and want to stay well informed about international issues. However, they are more concerned about improving things locally than globally.
With their minimum wages (less than $26,000), the segment’s household income is only a third of the national average. Enduring Hardships barely get by. They have few savings and fewer income-producing assets. The only investment they tend to have is savings bonds, and even then the total value is typically less than $5,000. Many admit that they know little about finance, distrust banks and worry that carrying credit cards will result in identity theft. As a result, they conduct most of their financial transactions with cash, debit cards and money orders. Some live beyond their means, borrowing from loan companies to make ends meet. Though few use insurance, an above-average percentage has taken out life insurance, though the amount is generally less than $20,000.
Enduring Hardships are among the least Internet-active, but they are gradually becoming more active online. They’re fond of sites that offer social networking, games, auctions, shopping coupons, sports scores and dating connections. Among their favorite sites: myspace.com, datehookup.com, iwin.com and pogo.com. They’re responsive to Internet ads; they click on email promotions and sponsored Websites. However, because many can’t afford to buy computer equipment and modems, they’re twice as likely as average Americans to go online through school and library computers.