Multi-cultural singles and families with mid and low incomes living settled lives in urban apartments
With nearly three-quarters of households containing recent immigrants, Fragile Families are multi-ethnic middle-aged singles, families and single-parent households. Predominantly Hispanic with a large concentration of Asian residents, this segment is found mostly in the nation’s largest cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, many cling to the traditions of their homeland while struggling against challenging economics and urban blight. Most have low educations - only 10 percent have a college degree - and earn low incomes from sales and service-sector jobs. It often takes several wage-earners in the same residence to make ends meet. Unable to afford cars, these households support local mom-and-pop shops where they know the proprietors and many of the clerks speak Spanish. In Fragile Families, a significant number of members speak Spanish at home.
Low incomes have only partly dampened the lifestyles in Fragile Families. These urban dwellers like nightlife and go to comedy clubs, billiards parlors and dance shows. They go out to eat frequently, but typically to fast-food restaurants such as El Pollo Loco, Popeyes and Domino’s Pizza. The popularity of soccer and baseball reflect the high concentration of Mexican and Caribbean heritage. These householders like to travel to their home country, trying to preserve connections to their friends and family. At home, they listen to music, either over the radio or on their MP3 player.
As consumers, Fragile Families spend above their income level. They love to shop - especially in a group with friends or family members - to scout out the latest styles and pick up accessories like sunglasses and watches. Many must leave their neighborhood when they want to shop at some of their favorite retailers, including Old Navy, Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret. While they’d like to buy consumer electronics for themselves, they only spring for new MP3 players. They admit that they’re not good at saving money and have no investments more than the average.
Fragile Families are selective media consumers. They have little interest in traditional media like TV and newspapers. They’re more interested in radio stations that air Spanish-language programming. They also read a number of Spanish and English magazines that target their interests in fashion, video gaming, music and teen pop culture. Ambivalent about advertising, they ignore most spots on TV and radio but pay attention to the outdoor messages in buses and subway trains.
These consumers say they like entertaining ads, but their traditional values indicate they respond to messages that highlight their conservative faith and family values. They want family members to think that they’re doing well, which helps explain their drive and ambition to reach the top of their field. As recent immigrants accustomed to taking risks, they’re still on the lookout for business opportunities that they hope will help them improve their situation. Many are happy to stay within the safe and familiar confines of their ethnic neighborhood, which explains why these recent immigrants aren’t as transient as those in other segments.
Fragile Families are Hispanic and Asians who have only recently moved to the U.S. With nearly three-quarters of adults foreign-born - one in eight are Caribbean - many of these middle-aged singles, couples and single-parent families have settled in gateway neighborhoods in search of better lives. Nearly two-thirds are between 35 and 50 years old, and they live in a mix of household types: more than half are single and more than a third are single parents - triple the national average. With modest educations - most never finished high school - they typically work in sales, health care or food services.
Fragile Families tend to live in immigrant neighborhoods in the largest cities in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters can be found in the top ten metros - especially in old, in-town neighborhoods in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Given the high cost of housing in these areas, fewer than 10 percent of households owns a home. The rest rent apartments, typically in old row houses, duplexes and low-rise buildings built nearly a century ago. Today the buildings are more run-down and nearby streets are lined with aging mom-and-pop shops, fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Many are new to their neighborhoods: nearly 40 percent have lived at the same address for fewer than three years. Most would like to put down roots in their communities, though economic reality sometimes forces them to move on.
Although Fragile Families have relatively low incomes, they do have active leisure lives. They enjoy going to comedy clubs and dance performances as well as shooting pool and playing bingo. They like to go to the gym to run or play basketball, and many have an obsession with soccer, boxing and baseball. These foreign-born singles do some foreign travel, and they’ve typically taken a trip to Cuba, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico in the last three years. Despite their close quarters, they like to spend their evenings at home, with many doing needlework, painting and listening to music - typically Latin ballads, salsa, reggae and Latin rock.
These consumers treat shopping like a weekend sport. They like shopping with friends or family, and they normally shop at local stores where they know the clerks, especially those who speak their language. The women are often fashionistas who like to keep up with the latest trends and experiment with different styles - as long as they’re affordable. This is also a strong market for goods like jeans, jogging shoes, watches and sunglasses, where a little extravagance can have big style impact. Many patronize retailers such as Old Navy, Macy’s, Express, Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret. While this segment tells researchers that they like to buy new electronic gadgets and appliances, their budgets tend not to back up that statement. The only recent devices that they buy at a moderate rate are MP3 players.
Fragile Families make a relatively weak media market. They’re among the least interested in newspapers and TV and are only an average audience for radio. Many say that magazines are their chief form of entertainment, and they subscribe to a wide range of titles: Food & Wine, Men’s Fitness, Seventeen, Rolling Stone and National Geographic Traveler. With a high percentage speaking Spanish at home, many keep up with Latin music, news and sports thanks to Spanish-language media. They’re more responsive to ads - especially entertaining ones - they see outdoors on bus shelters, subway trains and the roofs of taxis.
Family and faith guide the values of Fragile Families. These adults like to spend time with their family and consider their home an important part of who they are. They want their family to think that they’re doing well and that drives their ambition. Those who have children admit that it’s hard not to indulge them, especially when their jobs keep them away for long hours.
While family is important, financial success is another driving force. Self-described workaholics, many are willing to work long hours and sacrifice family time to advance at their jobs. Some are entrepreneurial and would like to start their own businesses. After having made the difficult decision to leave their home country and come to America, it’s not surprising that they say it’s important to seize opportunities in life. These folks are willing to take risks, confidant that they’ll succeed.
Fragile Families are comfortable around people from different cultures. They say it’s important to respect the customs and beliefs of others. However, that zeal doesn’t transfer to community activism. These immigrants have a low tendency to register to vote and join a political party. Those who do identify with a party tend to be Democrats, with views that are generally economically liberal and socially conservative.
In Fragile Families, household income is very low - typically below $42,000 - and that figure often includes multiple wage-earners in one household; in this segment many singles double-up to save housing costs. With little disposable cash, Fragile Families are a very weak financial market. These ethnically-mixed singles and single parents have few investments or other assets; less than 10 percent have an IRA or 401(k) account. In their big-city neighborhoods, they buy few insurance products - not even renter’s insurance. Concerned about identify theft and fraud, they don’t often carry credit cards, though their downscale immigrant status is also a barrier to qualifying for them. Most pay bills in cash and lament that, because they have trouble saving money, they feel financially insecure.
Fragile Families have relatively little interest in digital media. Those who do go online use the Internet as a source of entertainment and tool for communication - especially as an efficient way to stay in touch with family from their home country. They go to chat forums, download music files and listen to Internet radio. They also like to share files. However, they visit no Websites at high rates and less than 10 percent can afford Internet access at home. They go online at a library, school or through their mobile phone. But few in these households use the Internet to purchase products or telecommute.