Lower middle-class baby boomer households living in remote town and country homes
Homemade Happiness are older couples and divorced and widowed individuals living in small towns and rural settings across the U.S. More than eight in ten households contain baby boomers between the ages of 50 and 65, nearly all of whom are white, empty-nesting and working-class. Most never went beyond high school and work at blue-collar and farm jobs that pay modest salaries. Nonetheless, virtually all are homeowners, though the housing stock is often older clapboard houses or manufactured homes known for their low values and large lots. Some own full-sized trucks with all the options - vehicles worth more than their owner’s manufactured housing. These Americans like their rustic lifestyles and tend to measure their time at the same residence in decades, not years.
Homemade Happiness appreciate their casual way of life far from metropolitan centers. When they’re not working, they spend a lot of their leisure time enjoying traditional outdoors activities: hunting, fishing and horseback riding. In their homes, they like to watch TV, listen to music - either country or bluegrass - and do craft projects. They buy books through book clubs and they like to collect antiques, from porcelain figures to miniature cars. While they’ll occasionally drive to a home-style restaurant, they like to have friends over for dinner and a card game.
Given their remote settings, these consumers aren’t shopaholics. They like local stores, buying by mail-order and occasionally driving to a discount chain like Dollar General or Walmart. They’re hardly into making a fashion statement and prefer clothes that will last a long time; the same preferences hold true for cars. They buy cars based on their reputation for durability and ability to handle the rough country roads, and that usually means large-sized trucks and vans built in the USA. Cars play a major role in their lives: they often do their own maintenance work and take pride in their ability to fix things.
With conservative values and a rugged individualistic streak, Homemade Happiness cherish the solitude provided by their largely rural settings. They tend to be religious, and support family values. They’re risk-averse in the marketplace, uninterested in investments like stocks and mutual funds and slow to adopt new technology and digital media. Many seek to downplay the role of money and materialism in society and advocate for the importance of family ties and long- lasting relationships. Joining groups - be it veterans’, religious or AARP - is especially popular among Homemade Happiness, who consider volunteering an important way to make a difference in their communities.
Homemade Happiness are a middling media market. They’ll read local newspapers for the classified ads and listen to the radio for the country music, but they like to stay connected to popular culture mostly through their TV sets. They’re fond of virtually every kind of TV programming so long as it’s family-friendly; they’re an especially attractive target for early- morning and late-night TV. Although most can access the Internet, many don’t, preferring to avoid being bothered by new technology. If they go online, it’s often to participate in an auction on eBay.
Homemade Happiness contain couples and divorced and widowed individuals in their 50s and 60s who are mostly empty-nesting and preparing for retirement. Their educations are modest - a quarter never finished high school - and blue-collar and farm workers outnumber white-collar professionals. However, in these remote settings where expenses and home values are low, these households can afford to have more than three vehicles parked outside their homes - and that’s not including their boats and RVs.
Homemade Happiness are found in heartland towns mostly in the South and Midwest. Their housing values are low - under $100,000 on average - in part because half the houses were built before 1970 and one in six are manufactured homes. While much of the housing stock may be undistinguished brick Cape Cods, clapboard houses, ranches and manufactured homes, many of the properties come with nice-sized lots; these households are more than twice as likely as the national average to own two to four acres of land. The Boomers here appreciate the rustic settings of their towns. In their stable neighborhoods, more than half have lived at the same address for over a decade.
Homemade Happiness enjoy quiet country lifestyles. At home, they like to read, watch TV, garden and do crafts. They enjoy traditional outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing, camping and horseback riding. Although they like to bake from scratch, they have average rates for dining out, typically at home-style restaurants like Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel and Old Country Buffet. For a splurge, they’ll go to a state fair or antique show; this is one of the strongest segments for collecting porcelain figures and miniature cars. Most of the older members of this segment like to relax with friends over dinner or a game of cards.
The idea of shopping as sport is a foreign concept in Homemade Happiness. These Americans only shop to buy what they need - and that’s not too much. They prefer local stores to national chains, but they do have high rates for patronizing discount chains like Family Dollar, Kmart and Walmart. With many malls a long drive away, they use mail order, especially to buy books, gardening equipment and women’s apparel. Most of these Boomers care less about selection and designer brands than they do about comfort and durability. When they need transportation, they head to a dealership for a large truck or full-sized van that can handle the rugged roads. This is “buy American” country: the top nameplates are Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford and GMC and most are outfitted with gun racks and containers for fishing rods and tackle.
Homemade Happiness also like their media traditional. They like to read local newspapers for the classifieds and the front page, to see what’s happened with their neighbors. Many often keep their radios on all day, with the music changing only slightly from traditional country to mainstream country to bluegrass. They’re only average TV fans, but they’re much stronger viewers when it comes to early-morning and late-night TV - after the farmers in this segment have finished their chores - and they watch just about anything on air: movies, game shows, reality programs and how-to shows. Their favorite cable channels air mostly family fare: CMT, Hallmark, SOAPnet and Nick at Nite. Ask them about TV sports and they’ll mention only one topic - NASCAR. They watch car races on any channel at more than twice the national average.
Aware that their hold on middle-class status is somewhat tenuous, Homemade Happiness turn to traditional values as a source of comfort. They are religious and support family values. Many vote as conservative Democrats, though a disproportionate number identify themselves as Independents and members of third parties. These voters tell pollsters that they sometimes feel alienated from society.
Like many small-town Americans, Homemade Happiness tend to be risk-averse. They’re not open to people from other cultures and don’t want to be pestered by new technology or a changing society. They like their way of life and express little ambition to move to a better home or climb their way to the top at their jobs. They’ll tell you that happiness can’t be measured in dollars and cents, but rather in family ties and deep bonds with neighbors. These Americans say they are good neighbors who make friends easily and like to help out others in need. They prefer to find stability and worth in their community involvement; they belong to veterans’ clubs, the AARP and a local church.
Cash is king in Homemade Happiness, where members prefer using greenbacks to credit cards. With their modest incomes - under $47,000 - and conservative financial values, they have relatively few investments, retirement savings or credit-card debt. The only interest-bearing investments they own are CDs and bank checking accounts. They carry few credit cards other than department store charge cards from retailers like Sears. These households do like the protection of insurance and tend to carry low-balance policies for life, health, home and car. If they get caught in a budget squeeze - as farmers do regularly - they’ll go to their bank to take out a personal loan. They’re much more likely to be on a first-name basis with a banker than a stock broker.
Homemade Happiness have only limited interest in the Internet - or other digital technology, for that matter. They go online mostly to Websites dedicated to their leisure activities: hunting (gunbroker.com), cars (autozone.com) and baking (cooks.com). They’re slow tech adopters and rarely have the cell phone coverage to browse the Internet from their phones. About one in five households access the Internet using dial-up service - more than twice the national average. These Americans tell researchers that the Internet has changed their lives very little.