Older, middle-class couples and singles living comfortable lives in rural towns
The most isolated of all segments, Rural Escape are middle-class retirees who like the comforts of rural living. These older Americans - two-thirds are over 65 - tend to live in small Midwestern and Southern towns far from the major population centers. Most have grown children no longer living at home, high-school educations and modest houses or manufactured homes. The third of adults who aren’t yet retired work at a wide range of jobs, though farming is still a major occupation in these communities. One in ten heads of household works in agriculture - among the highest percentage in the nation - and everyone seems happy with a lifestyle that’s colored by an old-fashioned agrarian sensibility.
Rural Escape like the simple life. They enjoy home-based hobbies such as cooking, gardening and collecting coins, as well as time-honored pursuits like hunting and fishing. While stepping out for an evening often involves a hefty drive, they’ll make the trip for a family-style restaurant or an occasional evening at a country music concert. Their idea of a vacation is taking an RV to a campground and checking out a stand of woods known for its rare birds.
For Rural Escape, their traditional lifestyle infuses their value system. Home and family are important to these Americans, and they like to spend time with their extended families. They tend to be spiritual people who attend Sunday services. Politically, they are hidebound conservatives who vote the Republican ticket on Election Day. However, they’re not activists and are content to let church clubs and veterans’ organizations champion their causes.
When it comes to consumption, these Americans are pragmatic. They clip coupons, watch for sales and buy products that can stand up to their rustic lifestyle. They favor clothes that are comfortable, functional and sold at mainstream discounters. They buy full-sized trucks and vans made in the USA that they believe can best handle their rugged roads, and they patronize sporting-goods retailers in their never-ending search for the best fishing lure or camouflage hunting gear. Many eagerly await the catalogs that come in the mail featuring gardening, crafts and women’s clothing.
Rural Escape are also old-fashioned media consumers; they are fond of newspapers and cooking and health magazines and distrustful of the Internet and mobile media. Their chief form of entertainment is TV, and they’re big fans of daytime fare, especially game shows, soaps and re-runs from the black-and-white days of TV. Given their conservative politics, it’s not surprising that they also tune in the Fox News commentators at high rates. Although they no longer play any sports, they like to watch them on TV - especially pro and college football and anything having to do with car racing. Rural Escape are a prime target audience for NASCAR.
With two-thirds of households over 65 years old, Rural Escape are predominantly white, middle- class couples and widowed singles living a retirement lifestyle in the American heartland. Most of their children are grown and out of the house. Their educational achievements are modest: nearly three-quarters of household heads did not go beyond high school. Those still in the workforce have a variety of jobs, and about ten percent work at farming - four times the national average. Although better-paying jobs are available in the city, these adults deliberately have decided to settle in secluded towns and rural communities.
Rural Escape live in quiet communities scattered around the Midwest and South, too far from major cities for commuters. These rural settings are still a draw to older couples and widowed singles as retirement havens. Most households live in single-family homes and manufactured homes of varying ages. Even though a disproportionate number have large lots, the housing value is below average, at less than $190,000, because many own manufactured housing; indeed, manufactured home ownership rates are more than twice the national average. Many of these communities have lost population over the last century, and once-sprawling farms have been plowed under to become subdivisions. Still, these communities are mostly stable areas where a majority of households have lived at the same residence for more than a dozen years.
In their exurban settings, Rural Escape members mostly enjoy simple pleasures. With cultural activities like plays or concerts too far away, the only nightlife is typically what they can find on a TV or under the stars. Most spend their leisure time pursuing home-based hobbies like cooking, woodworking, gardening and collecting coins and porcelain figurines. They avoid strenuous athletic pursuits - though they like to watch football and motor sports on TV - except for hunting, bird-watching or fishing trips. A big outing is attending a country music concert.
In Rural Escape, households have the time to travel and they tend to take vacations several times a year. Most of the trips are to domestic destinations to visit family and friends, and they typically drive their cars or recreational vehicles. When they stop for a meal, they look for home- style restaurants such as Cracker Barrel or Perkins. They routinely stay at mid-market hotels on their vacations, usually Howard Johnson, Holiday Inn Express and Best Western.
In the marketplace, they’re utilitarian consumers where comfort trumps all other concerns. They like to buy clothes and products that are durable and functional. These price-sensitive shoppers patronize discounters like Walmart, Kmart and Dollar General as well as sporting-goods stores. They typically buy American-made pickup trucks and large sedans that can handle country roads; they own three or more vehicles. With the lack of commercial centers nearby, mail-order shopping is also popular with this segment. Rural Escape use catalogs to buy a wide range of products - from health and cooking products to gardening supplies and women’s apparel.
In their often remote towns, these households are only selective media fans. They like to read a daily newspaper, especially the news, cooking and home furnishings coverage. They exhibit only modest interest in radio, magazines and the Internet. However, they’re a top TV audience all day long. They’re fans of movies, newscasts, history programs and game shows; among their favorite cable channels are CMT, DIY, GSN and SOAPnet. These conservative viewers watch TV commentators like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, and they still tune in re-runs like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Little House on the Prairie”. With the traditional American car culture still reigning in their communities, it’s no surprise these folks will watch motor sports on any channel at any time.
Rural Escape still find virtue in old-fashioned, agrarian values. They believe in the primacy of the family and like spending time with their children and grandchildren. With nearly a third describing themselves as religious, they say that their faith is important and they go to church every Sunday. Although they worry about threats to their family values, they’re otherwise happy with their life and they look forward to enjoying their remaining years.
Far from the urban centers, Rural Escape are somewhat detached from contemporary issues, but they don’t seem to mind. They’re comfortable in their traditional views and see little reason to change. Their political outlook is conservative and they overwhelmingly vote the Republican Party ticket. They’re hardly rabble-rousers, though, and they prefer to make their voices heard through community groups like their church, veterans’ club or AARP. These citizens are nearly three times as likely as average Americans to have once served in the military.
Living so close to the land, Rural Escape have strong views about food and nutrition, but they’re not big on organic products, which they see as faddish. They look for fresh ingredients and care about serving nutritious meals. Still, they’re okay with indulging in fattening foods and they don’t feel guilty when eating sweets. These households like to have sit-down dinners and their country kitchen is often the most important room in the house.
Their incomes may be slightly below average, but Rural Escape typically feel financially secure thanks to their comfortable savings. As much as average Americans, they invest in stocks, mutual funds, CDs and tax-sheltered annuities; their balances are mid-range. However, for many, their financial security is a result of the low expenses in their small-town communities. They carry a lot of credit cards but particularly use their retail charge cards from Sears and JCPenney. They own a number of low-balance insurance products, particularly health and whole-life coverage. These old-fashioned consumers don’t like to go into debt, and they rarely take out a loan for anything.
Rural Escape members are not big fans of the Internet. They typically have slower, dial-up connections at home. They have little interest except to participate in an auction, conduct occasional travel planning or look up classifieds for cars, pets and fitness equipment. They visit relatively few shopping sites other than walmart.com, cabelas.com and gunbroker.com. With little passion for technology, they say that they have no plans for expanding their online services. They use their computers mainly for word processing and playing computer games.