Older, down-scale singles and empty-nesters living in modest exurban small towns
Small Town Shallow Pockets are older, unmarried empty-nesters in second-tier cities and exurban towns. Their lifestyle is pure small-town America: bluegrass, hunting, fast cars and full churches are all touchstones in this segment. Most residents are over 50 years old, predominantly white and include a mix of single, divorced and widowed individuals living in downscale neighborhoods. Less than 10 percent have a college degree, and the majority work in service-sector and blue-collar jobs. Nearly 20 percent are already retired.
Their neighborhoods, often found in cities and towns that have seen better days, are quietly deteriorating. The housing stock is a mix of bungalows, cottages and ranch houses typically built in the first half of the 20th century. Most houses are small and their lots modest. Home values are only a third of the national average and yards are rarely landscaped. In these areas, status is a new truck or a sporty car out front.
Among Small Town Shallow Pockets, lifestyles tend to be typical of those living in modest small towns. The men like to fish, the women do needlework and everyone likes to play bingo at the local American Legion hall. These older folks like to gather with friends for a game of cards or to shoot pool. Many can afford to travel, though it’s often by train to see children and grandchildren in cities across the U.S. Collecting coins and porcelain figurines are among their favorite hobbies; they also enjoy going to an antiques show or flea market on weekends.
In their communities far from downtown stores, Small Town Shallow Pockets care more about convenience than style. They tend to dress conservatively, always on the lookout for bargains at discount stores like Walmart and Dollar General. Except when it comes to TV, which they consider their main source of entertainment, they are not interested in electronic gadgets. It would be very unusual to see Small Town Shallow Pockets members carrying iPads or Blackberry devices.
Instead, these older folks gather around the TV at night to watch sitcoms, game shows and newscasts. Many have old-fashioned media habits that mean reading a newspaper from cover to cover in the morning and leafing through their copy of Ladies’ Home Journal or Guns & Ammo over a cup of coffee later in the day. They also listen to radio stations that play gospel or bluegrass music. Slowly, these older households are getting into the Internet. Initially they just sought out listings on Craigslist or the Yellow Pages but, increasingly, they’re visiting sites for gaming, social networking and following their favorite baseball team or racing driver. In this segment, NASCAR rules as the favorite spectator sport.
By heritage and inclination, Small Town Shallow Pockets are conservative in their views. Many describe themselves as moderate Democrats who view Republicans as the party of the wealthy. Faith plays an important role among these Americans; being active in the local church is a given. These older singles look to union halls and veterans’ clubs as social centers. Although many have only lived at the same address for five years, they’re still active in their communities, volunteering to help fight pollution and crime.
With more than half the householders over 50 years old, Small Town Shallow Pockets are single, divorced and widowed households on the cusp of retirement. Predominantly white and lower-income, most of the households are empty-nesting; in nine out of ten households, the children are living on their own. Educational levels are low: some 40 percent of household heads didn’t finish high school, and only 8 percent have a college degree. Most workers hold low-level jobs in sales or the service-services such as health care and social services. Nearly one in six householders has already retired.
Located in exurban cities and towns throughout the Midwest and South, Small Town Shallow Pockets tend to live in older, inexpensive housing far from urban centers. Some of the cities were once industrial boomtowns that have since fallen on hard times. The segment features a mix of housing styles, including clapboard homes and ranch houses built before 1950. Home values are low; they average close to $77,000, nearly two-thirds below the national average. While many of the properties were originally built for younger families decades ago, the children have all moved away and left these homes to age and empty-nest. Small Town Shallow Pockets have only recently moved to these homes after looking for an affordable place to rent where the pace is slow and the scenery rich. More than three-quarters are renters, nearly four times the national average. A majority of the members of this segment has lived at the same address for fewer than five years.
Small Town Shallow Pockets lead unpretentious lifestyles. They spend a lot of their leisure time indoors, listening to music, reading books and doing needlework. They like having friends over to play cards or watch a baseball game on TV; Major League Baseball is one of their favorite interests along with NASCAR races. Their idea of exercise is gardening, going fishing or bird- watching. For nightlife, they’ll go out to a bar, billiards parlor or nightclub for dancing. These older households like collecting things - especially coins, sports memorabilia or porcelain figurines - and regularly attend antique shows.
Like other American 50-somethings, Small Town Shallow Pockets like to travel. About two-thirds have taken a vacation at a domestic location in the last year. Many favor warm-weather destinations in the South, regularly taking a boat or train on their excursions. These price- sensitive travelers typically stay at discount hotels, including chains like Econo Lodge, Country Inns & Suites and Motel 6. While some like vacations where their itinerary is chock full of planned activities, these folks just want to kick back and relax.
With their modest budgets, Small Town Shallow Pockets aren’t big on shopping. Traditional in their marketplace preferences, they favor brands made in the USA, sold at stores they can afford, like Dollar General, Big Lots, Fashion Bug and Payless Shoe Source. For sports gear, they’ll go to the closest store that stocks fishing equipment. Generally tech-shy, many recently upgraded to a flat-screen TV, but the size is still modest - smaller than 39 inches. Only half of these downscale households own a car, typically small economy sedans or pickups bought used and made in America. Among their favorite name plates are Buick, Oldsmobile and Plymouth.
Small Town Shallow Pockets have traditional media tastes. They like to sit on their couches watching broadcast TV shows, daytime soaps, game shows, sitcoms and news programs, as well as cable channels like AMC, Hallmark Channel, TNT and Syfy. Many households like print media, subscribing to a daily newspaper and reading traditional magazines like Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler, Star, Southern Living and Popular Science. In their cars, they typically keep their radios tuned to gospel, bluegrass, traditional soul and album-oriented rock. Although not many of these households access the Internet, those who do visit gaming, dating and sports sites that cover auto racing. They like to spend their Saturday afternoon cheering on their favorite driver on TV or the motorsports Websites.
Small Town Shallow Pockets have conservative values, particularly on social issues, but they still align themselves with the Democratic Party because they view Republicans as the party of the wealthy. Most register to vote and will participate in protests if they feel strongly about an issue - particularly an issue that offends their views of religion and country. These older Americans say that their faith is important to them. They’re somewhat nationalistic and even parochial, admitting that they have little interest in other cultures. Compared to the national average, they’re two-and-a-half times more likely to watch religious TV programs. Many belong to local chapters of unions, veterans’ clubs and church fellowships.
Small Town Shallow Pockets occupy one of the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, and they’re not happy about it. They want to invest their life with meaning and find personal fulfilment through work and higher status. They say that it’s important to learn new things and be well- informed. They’re driven not simply by personal satisfaction but a need for status recognition. They want to do better so they can gain the respect of family and peers.
The hard-working Small Town Shallow Pockets have low incomes, which less than half the national average at $32,000, but they’ve managed to set aside some savings for retirement. These risk-averse seniors buy safe investments like savings bonds and long-term CDs. They also own whole-life insurance as well as savings and interest-bearing checking accounts at rural credit unions. They’re one-third less likely than average Americans to carry credit cards. These seniors think it’s important to be well insured, and almost half carry life insurance, though the coverage is rarely higher than $100,000. Compared to the general population, they’re more than twice as likely to admit that they’re not good at saving money. As a result, many are especially careful with their money, since there’s not a lot of it.
Small Town Shallow Pockets use digital media less than most Americans. They’re among the least Internet-active; they regard the Internet less as a medium for entertainment than a tool for getting information and hot deals. They do go online for tracking retail rewards, gaming and checking out sports Websites for wrestling and auto racing news. They also use the Internet to find plumbers and electricians through Yellow Pages and Craigslist. However, they also admit that the Internet is playing an increasing role in their entertainment options.