Older, down-scale African-American singles and single parents established in modest urban neighborhoods
Centered in downscale black neighborhoods in large and second-tier cities, Soul Survivors are of older, lower-income households living in aging houses. Most of the householders are over 50 years old and either widowed or divorced. Less than 10 percent hold a college degree, and many get by on minimum wages from jobs in sales or the service sector. With household incomes less than half the national average, these Americans can only afford modest lifestyles in often older housing.
Soul Survivors are mostly found in the South and Midwest, typically in older sections of big cities that have struggled with unemployment and poverty for years. These householders overwhelmingly own their homes, but their aging bungalows and craftsman-style houses are often in need of repair. Most of the housing stock was built before 1950, and today the structures are valued at less than a third of the national average. The current residents aren’t necessarily original owners or even the children of them. One-third of the households have been at the same residence for fewer than three years.
With their modest budgets, Soul Survivors can’t afford luxurious lifestyles. They’ll occasionally go out to a bar, club or cinema. Most evenings, however, are spent at home, where they cook, do crafts or watch TV. Having had few dealings with banks or brokerage houses, they look to collect valuables as a source of wealth, whether it’s coins, comics or sports memorabilia. They’re fond of gambling at casino tables and bingo halls in hopes of quick winnings. This segment makes a mixed market for sports and athletic activities: The younger members in the segment enjoy aerobic sports like basketball, football, hockey and racquetball. The older members prefer fishing. Everyone seems to enjoy armchair sports; they watch college football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey and motorsports on their older TVs.
In the marketplace, Soul Survivors can be hard to pin down. Some love to shop while others rarely venture into malls and stores. Many care about convenience above all and prefer local stores to national chains. They also like stores that carry a wide selection, and many admit that they have a tendency to buy products on the spur of the moment. Yet most are price sensitive and end up at discount department stores like Kmart, Family Dollar and Fashion Bug. With three-quarters unmarried, it’s not surprising that many say they want to look attractive. One- quarter say they spend a lot of money on cosmetics - nearly five times the national average.
This urban segment makes a strong media audience and not just for ethnically-targeted media. They’re fans of the range of traditional media: TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. They tune in to TV networks that offer movies, documentaries and history programs such as Lifetime, Bravo, HBO and BET. Their taste in music swings from 1940s pop to hip hop and reggae. They read magazines that cover music and computers - that is, when they’re not leafing through the fashion and jobs sections of their daily newspaper. Although they’re not active Internet users, they do go online to play games, look for better jobs and participate in social networking through black-oriented Websites.
Politically, this is one of the most heavily Democratic segments in the nation; they align themselves with the party at twice the national average, but the older populace includes both social liberals and conservatives. Many residents are active in the community and are willing to volunteer for groups to better their neighborhoods. Mostly, though, they want to land a more lucrative job to improve their standard of living and upgrade their home. Money, they say, is the best measure of success.
Concentrated in urban neighborhoods, virtually everyone in Soul Survivors is African-American. Three-quarters are unmarried, with the majority widowed, divorced or separated - about double the national average. Their households are small: two-thirds have only one resident. The largest number consists of baby boomers between the ages of 51 and 65, though a disproportionate number are over 65 years old. Many of these households came from humble origins, and nearly three-quarters never went beyond high school. One in five is retired, but those still working mostly hold sales and service-sector jobs in fields like health care, social services, building and maintenance and tech support.
Soul Survivors typically live in the traditionally black neighborhoods of cities throughout the South and Midwest, in places like East Saint Louis, Ill., Detroit, Mich., Memphis, Tenn. and Jackson, Miss. Nine out of ten households live in a single-family home, which is about 25 percent higher than average. However, the value of the housing stock is low: at $82,000, it’s less than a third of the national average. Many of these houses - a mix of bungalows, craftsman style houses and row houses - have seen better days. Two-thirds of the homes were built before 1950 and a third before 1925; it’s not uncommon to see these neglected neighborhoods showing signs of wear. In this segment, people have wildly varying mobility rates: about a third have lived at the same address for more than 20 years, and about a third for fewer than three years.
The lifestyles of Soul Survivors are limited by their tight budgets. They prefer to spend a quiet evening at home cooking, doing needlework, quilting, painting or drawing. These older folks are into antiques and collect coins, porcelain figurines, sports memorabilia and paper collectibles. When they do go out, they head to a bar, nightclub, comedy club or movie theater. A high percentage prefers fast food to home cooking, frequenting chains like Red Robin, Sizzler Steak House and Sonic; they also order pizza from Papa John’s and Domino’s. Many also are fond of gambling and visit casinos and play bingo; about one-quarter have visited Atlantic City in the last year.
Soul Survivors have a need for status recognition, noting that they like to make a unique fashion statement and keep up with the latest styles. While they like to shop for clothes, however, these price-sensitive consumers feel compelled to stick to discount stores like Family Dollar, Fashion Bug and Kmart. The same holds true with their cars: these drivers prefer owning luxury cars; while they drive Cadillacs and Lincolns more than the average, they’re more likely to drive economy subcompacts and standard sedans made by Buick, Chevrolet and Dodge.
With their penchant for staying home at night, Soul Survivors are a strong media audience. They describe TV, radio and magazines all as main sources of entertainment. They value newspapers for keeping them current about local news. They’re even receptive to advertising to help them learn about new products. Traditional media fans, they like to keep their radios on all day, listening to jazz, 1940s to 1950s pop, hip hop, reggae, gospel and soul. They also tune in to a wide variety of cable channels, such as Bravo, BET, Comedy Central, Lifetime and GSN as well as premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Movies, documentaries and history programs are their favorite TV fare. Many read magazines that cover news, music, computers and subjects targeted to the African-American community. Steadily increasing their time on the Internet, they like to check out new Websites and are beginning to view the Internet as another prime source of entertainment.
Soul Survivors are still striving to improve their lives. They have materialistic aspirations despite their downscale standard of living. They’re always on the lookout for new ideas to improve their home. Like many Americans, they want to provide their children with things that they never had. They support the pursuit of novelty and want to enjoy life. These older folks don’t make any pretense about wanting a job for mental rewards: they’re in it for the money.
Many of these folks are involved in their community. An above-average three-quarters are registered votes, and they tend to be diehard Democrats, about twice the national average. They are generally liberal on economic issues but mixed on social issues. They’re willing to volunteer for a good cause and march in a protest if they think the cause is just. As they say, "I speak my mind even if it upsets people".
Soul Survivors have been in the workforce for many years, but their household income is still less than half the national average, at about $31,000. Many have managed to set aside only a small nest egg. Concerned that the stock market is too risky, they own only a few equities or tax- sheltered annuities, though they have deposited money in Keogh accounts and 529 College Savings Plans. While they carry few credit cards, they do use retail charge cards and own Sears and JCPenney cards as much as the average. Believing that it’s important to be well-insured, they own health and life insurance, especially group life policies. These households also have built up enough equity in their homes to qualify for loans, and they tend to carry personal, car and home improvement loans. When it comes time to pay their monthly bills, they do so in a variety of ways: cash, money order and debit card.
Soul Survivors have below-average Internet use, but they’re still active in the digital space. When they go online, they visit Websites for job listings, telecommunications equipment and software, gambling games and shopping rewards, as well as ethnically-targeted sites such as blackplanet.com, blackpeoplemeet.com and mocospace.com. They don’t often go online for shopping or telecommuting, but they like using the Internet for communications and entertainment. They’re more than twice as likely as average to access the Internet over their cell phones, though those who have a modem at home tend to use a mix of dial-up and high-speed Internet access. These households are into sharing music files, using many of the popular web applications at more than twice the national average.