Younger and middle-aged singles gravitating to second-tier cities
After they finished college, America’s singles used to gravitate to funky apartments in dicey neighborhoods of major metropolises. Today, Full Steam Ahead have taken a detour to second- tier cities in the West and South where they find cheaper housing, less crime and fewer of the hassles associated with dense, urban living. These singles are relatively young, unattached and well-educated. Predominantly white and transient, they’ve settled in high-rise and garden-style apartments near jobs, bars, health clubs and music stores. Many work in sales and service- sector industries where they earn modest incomes but gain plenty of experience at the start of their careers. Without mortgages or children to raise, they have the freedom to spend their first paychecks on nightlife, new technology and faster online services - so they can find even better jobs and apartments. Nearly nine out of ten of these mobile singles have lived at the same address for fewer than three years.
With two-thirds of this segment unmarried, Full Steam Ahead pursue young and active lifestyles. A disproportionate number spend their leisure time engaged in aerobic sports like jogging, basketball and in-line skating. These educated Americans like the nightlife and go to plays, movies and adult education classes. They also have a creative streak, with many playing musical instruments, painting and taking their photography seriously. However, few engage in home cooking; they live by takeout, fast food and nightclub bar food. Self-described early adopters, they like to try new foods, experiment with new clothing styles and pick up the latest consumer electronics - no matter the cost.
For many members of Full Steam Ahead, even shopping is an aerobic sport. They’ll often go online to plan a shopping excursion with a friend, ever in search of the latest trends and newest products. They’ll browse a lot to make sure they get a good value, but they’re not so price- conscious that they won’t splurge on the perfect pair of boots or sunglasses. These shoppers can usually be found in upscale mall retailers and hip boutiques. Although they have their favorite stores and labels, they’re always up to try a hot new store.
Full Steam Ahead, online 24/7 through mobile devices, are too progressive for most traditional media. They only sit still for a video game or to surf the Net; in this segment, newspapers and magazines are relics from the last century. However, they do make an exception for gaming magazines. They have only average consumption patterns for TV and radio programming, though they like reality TV shows targeted to their young-and-single demographic, now preoccupied with dating, working, eating and dieting. These party creatures like a wide range of music on the radio - they listen to everything from classical to hip hop. Full Steam Ahead were raised on the Internet, and it’s their chief source of entertainment; they go online to play games, share tracks and check out Facebook profiles of potential dates.
Full Steam Ahead hold decidedly progressive attitudes about society and politics. Few would dispute that they’re lefties: pro-environment, pro-Democratic Party and supportive of progressive social issues. Some are too preoccupied - or just too cool - to actually register to vote. However, those who are engaged are active in their communities. They volunteer for causes. They participate in demonstrations, they worry about the future and they want to make their lives better.
Full Steam Ahead are younger singles: two-thirds of the household heads are under 45 years old, the vast majority are single and about 90 percent have no kids living at home. Predominantly white with an above-average presence of Asians, most are well-educated, with a majority having gone to college. They tend to work at entry-level jobs in sales or service-sector industries like food services, transportation, communications and, especially, technology.
Full Steam Ahead have vertical lifestyles, which is to say that 97 percent live in rental apartments. Most of those apartment buildings are garden-style complexes with at least 50 units. These young people are found in second-tier cities throughout the West and South. Many of their buildings were built over the last 40 years to accommodate fast-growing economies in technology and communications. Today, these apartments are still a magnet for transient singles drawn to nearby jobs and low rents. Nearly two-thirds of residents have been at the same address for less than a year; 90 percent for fewer than three years.
Full Steam Ahead don’t like to spend their evenings at home - unless they’re throwing a party. Their dating-and-mating rituals revolve around the club scene - whether it’s nightclubs or health clubs. These singles like going to plays, movies, museums and adult education classes. They’re very body-conscious and spend a lot of time working out, lifting weights, playing basketball, jogging and in-line skating. When they do stay home, it’s often for intellectual or creative pursuits like reading books, playing a musical instrument, painting or blogging. If they invite friends over for dinner, it’s often to introduce them to a new food or a drink they just discovered.
There’s a joy in consumption among these young Americans. They tell researchers that they like to shop with friends, relatives, members of the opposite sex - just about anyone breathing. What they don’t care about are coupons; they’re too busy to clip them or find them online. Despite their modest incomes, they’re willing to splurge on the latest fashion and designer labels at mid- to up-market stores like Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Express and Victoria’s Secret. These digital-savvy consumers also like to outfit themselves with the latest in MP3 players and digital handheld devices. Although they often comparison-shop first over the Internet, they still may blow their budget because of a tendency to make impulse purchases.
Full Steam Ahead don’t have a lot of time for traditional media. They’re below-average readers of newspapers and most magazines, and only average fans of TV and radio. Their tastes skew young, not surprisingly, and they favor TV sitcoms and reality shows like ”Two and a Half Men” “The Bachelorette, “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Biggest Loser”. When they tune in the radio, it’s typically to listen to a wide range of music - from classical and modern rock to urban and contemporary hit radio. Otherwise, they access the Internet when they want to stay informed, surfing to media Websites like CNN, ESPN and ABC.
Practical and optimistic, these young, dynamic people have a strong engagement with their communities and environment. Politically, they are very liberal and tend to vote a progressive Democratic platform - that is, if they are registered to vote, which is not the case for a majority of segment members. They support human rights and would punish unethical companies. They see themselves as members of the global village and believe it’s the duty of all citizens of the planet to recycle. They’re willing to speak out on these causes and join protests to make their voices heard.
Full Steam Ahead see themselves as creative, adventurous and open with their feelings. They tell researchers that they’re always in pursuit of novelty and change. They’re early adopters who like to buy new consumer electronics - and they’ll pay anything if they really want the gadget. In their close circle of friends, they claim they’re usually the first to know about new trends and the ones who organize activities. Active in the dating scene, they maintain that it’s important to stand out in a crowd and be attractive to the opposite sex.
Despite their bravura, Full Steam Ahead singles say that they’re not happy with life as it is, but they do feel that ambition and risk-taking will help bring them happiness. Many believe that working hard, and perhaps setting up their own businesses, will let them shape their destinies. These Americans say that they’re headed for the top of their careers.
The initial euphoria over getting their first paychecks from their entry-level jobs is just a memory now for Full Steam Ahead. That optimism now has been replaced by a feeling of financial insecurity. Few of these young Americans have any assets other than a handful of savings bonds given to them by family members. Any money in savings has been used to pay down student loans and furnish their new digs with the latest electronic gear. Without any credit history, many lack credit cards, getting by instead with debit cards and ATMs when financing their meals and nightlife. Typically, the only insurance they care about is renter’s insurance. Still, their low incomes - of less than $52,000 - can go far in these single-person households and they’re thinking ahead: many are considering hiring a financial planner.
Having been online for most of their lives, using the Internet is as natural and regular as breathing for Full Steam Ahead. They go online for fun - to play games, watch videos and explore lifestyle topics like fashion, religion and New Age disciplines - and for utilitarian purposes like banking, shopping and making travel plans. Many are looking to improve their employment situation, and they go to sites like phoenix.edu, careerbuilder.com and jobs.com. These educated households are hip to the latest technology, and they access the Internet through their cell phones or wireless connections. They also respond to online advertising as long as it’s not embedded in email: they’re more than twice as likely as average Americans to click on sponsored Websites and links. These singles also appreciate the Internet as a meet market, with high use of social media like Myspace and Facebook.