Mid-scale African-American singles established in inner-city communities
With its high unemployment, low education levels and aging infrastructure, Meager Metro Means may seem disheartening. Only one out of ten members hold a college degree. Their incomes, from low-level sales and service-sector jobs, are 40 percent below-average, and nearly 95 percent live in rental units in apartment buildings, duplexes and row houses, typically nearly a century old.
However, the intrepid African-American singles and single parents who are members of this segment have carved out adequate lifestyles, and they say that they’re working to improve their situations. Their ages range from 19 to 65 years old, giving the segment exceptional diversity in its consuming patterns. This is one of the few segments where members enjoy participating in both baseball and boxing. They’re early adopters who pick up the latest consumer electronics and fashion. While there’s not a lot of money for downtown nightlife, they get in-house entertainment, with high-speed Internet access for gaming, downloading music and blogging.
Meager Metro Means are mostly found in a handful of major metros, and two-thirds are concentrated in New York City - no wonder members subscribe to the New York Times at three times the national average. They live in a mix of high-rise apartments, low-rise projects and old duplexes. Relatively few have cars, and they rely on public transit and neighborhood stores - fast-food joints, mom-and-pop retailers and corner markets - to survive. Without high percentages of intact families, this is a transient segment where a majority have lived at the same address for fewer than five years.
As low-income consumers, the Meager Metro Means get by with modest leisure activities. For many, their church is the center of their social lives, as a place for religious fellowship and regular bingo games. If the adults go out, it’s to a comedy or dance club. TV is popular among these young singles and families, and for many, paying for premium cable channels is a cheaper alternative to buying high-priced movie tickets. This isn’t a segment for dining at upscale restaurants; fast food will do just fine. However, they do have high standards when it comes to fashion, and these singles want to look good when they go out. Their favorite clothing stores include Macy’s, Express and Coldwater Creek. While they’re receptive to some advertising, stating that it helps them learn about new products, they tend to avoid TV commercials and email marketing messages. They’re more responsive to ads in public places, remembering what they see in subways, buses and movie theaters.
Politically, Meager Metro Means are often to the left of liberal. There’s little evidence of any Republican voters in this segment. While these voters are strong supporters of liberal social and economic ideals, they have a conservative streak as well. They go to church regularly and support their families and their communities. They have a strong need for status recognition and talk of advancing to the top or starting their own businesses, even though they have little in savings right now. They don’t mind spending money to look good in the dating scene. No matter their age, they want to look younger.
Meager Metro Means are downscale singles and single-parent households living in downtown apartments in a handful of big cities. Nearly 90 percent are African-American, with the rest mainly Hispanic. The age range is wide, with above-average concentrations of members who are anywhere from 19 to 65 years old. What they share is low educational achievement: nearly a third have finished high school and only one out of ten household heads have college degrees. Most adults work at low-level sales and service-sector jobs in health care, public administration and wholesale and retail trade. In this segment, however, unemployment is widespread.
Meager Metro Means are concentrated in New York City as well as a few of the nation’s other largest cities. In their urban neighborhoods, housing values are substantial - more than $350,000 on average - but few of these households own homes or condos. Nine out of ten live in rental apartments, typically in a mix of very old and dilapidated duplexes, triple-deckers and projects built before 1925. Relatively few intend to remain in these downscale neighborhoods for very long: half have been at the same address for fewer than five years.
For Meager Metro Means, social activities provide some relief from their economic challenges. They enjoy going to comedy clubs, dance performances and, for a splurge, theme parks with their kids. They also tend to exercise regularly, with many enjoying baseball and boxing at nearby parks and gyms. With many in Meager Metro Means describing themselves as religious, they do a lot of socializing at their local churches; bingo is a favorite pastime.
However, their tight budgets preclude Meager Metro Means from pursuing many nightlife activities or high-end sports like skiing and boating. Most spend their evenings at home, watching TV, reading magazines, and, in the households with kids, playing video games. Going out to dinner means a trip to a fast-food restaurant like KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts or Popeyes. During the last three years, many have taken vacations in the Caribbean, which for some is a chance to return to their home country. With one in eight households Hispanic, visits to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica - as well as Jamaica - are common.
These urban consumers make a strong market for retailers. Although they say they prefer to shop at nearby stores, they visit a wide variety of chains - everything from discounters like Kmart and Fashion Bug to more mid-market retailers such as Macy’s and Express. They’ll spend freely on their children and on electronics; they have a strong tendency to buy MP3 players, DVRs and DVD players. They state that they’re typically the first among their friends to buy a new gadget.
With many Meager Metro Means spending their evenings at home, TV dominates their entertainment. They like to watch cable channels like BET, Disney XD, GSN and ESPN News, but they’re also willing to buy premium channels such as HBO, Encore and Cinemax. This is a strong market for magazines, with households subscribing to parenting, health, fitness and music publications. However, they rarely listen to the radio - they prefer their MP3 players with playlists that include hip hop, reggae and rhythm and blues. Although they have relatively low interest in reading most newspapers, many can’t resist hometown publications like the New York Times and, perhaps surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal; such is the power of the local print media in New York.
Meager Metro Means may live at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, but they have a strong desire to impress others. They say that it’s important to be attractive to the opposite sex and to stay young-looking; to that end, they’re willing to spend a lot of money on new fashion and brand-name toiletries. They make an effort for health, trying to eat a well-balanced diet and checking out new health foods. Nonetheless, they admit that their best intentions are difficult to maintain: they’re often too busy to take better care of themselves.
Despite their time-pressed lives, they come across as spiritual people who care about others in their communities. Their faith is important and they’re willing to volunteer for a good cause. Those with children talk about wanting to provide for their kids and indulge them with little extras. They say that their time is more important than money, but they show every sign of wanting to have money, too.
Politically, Republicans register virtually no supporters in Meager Metro Means. About half are Democrats and there’s also a high concentration of Independents. However, the political views here range from liberal to very liberal, albeit with some conservative pockets. Outspoken, they don’t mind if people know about their opinions. “I speak my mind even if it upsets people,” they say.
With household incomes 40 percent below the national average, Meager Metro Means qualify as a weak financial market at best. These unmarried households are 90 percent less likely than average Americans to own any investments. Claiming that Wall Street is too risky, they invest in very few stocks, mutual funds or bonds, and those who have IRAs typically have balances that are less than $50,000. Only 23 percent carry credit cards. In fact, it’s often easier to define this segment by the financial products that they don’t have. For instance, they rarely own life insurance and health insurance. Although they may take out a personal loan for education, they rarely have loans for new cars or motorcycles. Preferring to avoid further debt and service fees, they’re three times as likely to pay for any expenses with cash.
Meager Metro Means go online for entertainment, shopping and information. Many access the Internet to read blogs and chat forums, get fashion tips and sports scores, and download music and games. They make a weak audience for many online transactions, such as banking or booking travel. However, they do like to shop online and share their thoughts via digital media. They visit sites like target.com and macys.com, as well as twitter.com and fanfiction.net. With their typically high-speed cable access to the Internet, they’re beginning to spend more time online and less in front of the TV - or sleeping.