Lower middle-income African-American multi-generational families living in small towns
Concentrated in small towns throughout the South, Gospel and Grits are older African Americans with working-class lifestyles. Most of the residents are over 50 years old, have modest educations - only a third have gone to college - and work in blue-collar jobs. There’s a multi-generational pride in their lives and livelihoods. In this segment, many kids grow up and stay put in their snug, unassuming towns, where they can rely on the support of long time neighbors and an extended family. Today this segment is filled with a mix of household types: empty-nesting couples, families, divorced individuals and single-parent households.
The decline in manufacturing has hurt the incomes in Gospel and Grits, and many are trying to re-invent themselves in a post-industrial age. A high number now work in health care and public administration as well as farming and retail. Many say that they’re working hard to advance in their careers. Their lower middle-class incomes don’t allow for many extravagances, and though nearly all the household heads are homeowners, most of the houses are older clapboard homes worth about $100,000. These townies go to the same churches (mostly Baptist), meet at the same coffee shops and gather for barbecues on the major holidays. Most have lived in the same neighborhoods for over a decade.
Gospel and Grits enjoy active social lives. They go to bars, comedy clubs and state fairs, and many of these households with young adults are into athletics like basketball, football and aerobics. There’s an aspirational quality to this segment: householders describe themselves as workaholics who are taking adult-education classes and are willing to take risks to improve their standard of living. They would like their families to think they’re doing well, and they make sure to dress the part. Many are enthusiastic shoppers who patronize a wide variety of retailers, including high-end stores like Nordstrom and Ann Taylor, but they’re also happy to snap up bargains at discount stores as long as they’re the latest fashion. While some can only afford to buy a used car, luxury models like Cadillacs and Lincolns still sell well in this segment.
Gospel and Grits tend to have average tastes in most media beyond outlets like BET and Jet, which they enjoy. These multi-generational households are big fans of TV channels such as ESPN, Hallmark and MTV. They like to read magazines that cover popular culture - titles such as Us and Vanity Fair. They’re solid fans of radio stations that reflect their twin passions for music - gospel, hip hop, soul - and religion.
Although they tend to be late tech-adopters, they increasingly appreciate the Internet - or at least as much as they can, given their limited connectivity. They go online to hunt for jobs, play games and listen to Internet radio. Next year, they hope to acquire even more online services.
Like other rural segments, Gospel and Grits tend to have a conservative outlook, but these households are different: they support the Democratic Party, they’re open-minded about immigration and people from other cultures, and they support equal rights for all. They’re still traditionalists on many social issues but they also see the value of government in protecting the environment and reducing crime. Mostly, they want politicians to preserve their opportunity to achieve upward mobility.
Gospel and Grits are, overwhelmingly, African-American households concentrated in the South. This is an older segment, with a majority of household heads over the age of 50, and nearly a quarter contain either an elderly parent or a young adult. Many are unmarried singles and couples - more than 40 percent are divorced, widowed or separated individuals - but the above- average number of households with children reflects the high percentage of single parents. Educational achievement is modest, with nearly two-thirds of households not having gone beyond high school. The highest percentage works at lower-echelon blue-collar jobs in health care, public administration, farming and the retail trades.
Nearly nine out of ten households in Gospel and Grits are found in the South, typically in small towns and crossroad villages far beyond the nation’s big cities. Almost as many own single- family homes, which tend to be old clapboard houses, ramblers and bungalows built before 1970 and worth not much more than $103,000. In their sleepy communities, life is a slow parade of traditions that typically revolve around family, community and church. With many members having grown up and continued to live in the family home, Gospel and Grits is a stable segment. A majority have lived at the same address for more than a decade.
The lifestyles of Gospel and Grits reflect a working-class sensibility. With limited budgets for expensive leisure pursuits, households spend a lot of free time at home or going out to bars, comedy clubs, state fairs or adult-education classes. These multi-generational families also like to work out by playing basketball and football, and taking aerobics classes and boxing lessons. They may not travel far or wide, but Gospel and Grits like to motor around town in comfort: they tend to own large, American-made sedans from Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln - land cruisers that sail over any bumps in the road they come across.
Gospel and Grits are living a simple, small-town life, but members still have an enthusiasm for consumption. Many express a concern for their appearance and want to look young. They’re fashion-forward shoppers who like to experiment with new styles, keep up with the latest fashion and make a statement with their clothes. Despite their modest budgets, they patronize a remarkably wide range of retailers - from Nordstrom, Ann Taylor and Chico’s to Family Dollar, Dollar General and Payless Shoe Source. Their goal when shopping is to always get the best deal, but they concede that they sometimes spend more than they can afford.
Gospel and Grits consume a variety of media at rates close to the national average. They’re fans of magazines including Jet, Ebony and O. They also make a strong audience for mainstream TV, including cable channels - ESPN, Lifetime, MTV and Hallmark - and all kinds of TV programming: reality shows, movies, history programs and game shows. In addition, they subscribe to local newspapers and read a number of magazines that cover the latest news in music, fashion and popular culture - publications like Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone and Redbook. Radio is a major form of entertainment, with musical preferences ranging from pop, rhythm and blues and traditional soul to hip hop, gospel and alternative rock, but many in this segment turn on the radio exclusively for religious programming.
Like many African Americans, Gospel and Grits are strong supporters of the Democratic Party. However, they consider themselves conservative on social values. They tell pollsters that they’re spiritual, religious and old fashioned. According to these Americans, a woman’s place is in the home. Unlike some rural segments, they tend to be open-minded on immigration and people from other cultures; they support equality for all.
Gospel and Grits express a need for personal achievement. They describe themselves as workaholics who want to get to the top of their careers. To them, any job is better than no job at all. They say that they’re willing to try new things and don’t mind appearing unconventional in their drive to succeed. In this segment, consumption is often driven by the desire to have their families think that they’re doing well.
Given their modest means, it’s not surprising that they’re discriminating consumers doing all they can to stretch their budgets. They will wait for a sale to shop at a favorite store and typically head right to the clearance racks. When they’re feeling ill, they’ll research treatments on their own before visiting a doctor. They always read the small print in ads promoting new medical treatments. However, many say they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals, so they routinely eat fast food, store-made takeout and high-calorie dishes. The result: many are always trying to lose weight.
Distrustful of banks and other financial institutions, Gospel and Grits have only infrequent dealings with banks and investment houses. They have few investments other than low-risk CDs, savings bonds or tax-sheltered annuities. Where they excel is their possession of company stock, at more than twice the national average, though the total value of their securities is less than $50,000. They look to the more approachable insurance industry for investment-style whole-life insurance along with policies for health and disability. In their older communities, many are close to paying off the mortgages on their homes. That reality not only offers the promise of more disposable income, it also allows these households to leverage the value of their homes for a variety of loans - personal, car and home improvement. With a lower-than-average tendency to use credit cards, many prefer to pay for everything with cash - and that includes charitable donations. Despite their lower-middle incomes averaging $46,070, they still have a philanthropic streak and give to religious groups and private foundations more than the average.
Gospel and Grits have only modest appetites for digital media. They have low interest in using the Internet, in part because it’s difficult to get high-speed Internet access in their small communities. Still the presence of young adults in many households does influence online activities, particularly in the areas of entertainment, information and social media - such as blackplanet.com and facebook.com. They have above-average interest in gaming, joining chat forums, listening to Internet radio and researching information on health care. This is a strong market for college and training Websites like phoenix.edu and itt-tech.edu, as well as employment Websites such as jobs.com, careerbuilder.com and snagajob.com. With a lower-than-average number of households going online from their homes, members of this segment may be accessing the Internet at their local libraries. However, these Americans recognize the increasing value of digital media, and a high number plan to add Internet services in the next year.