Economically challenged mix of singles, divorced and widowed individuals in smaller cities and urban areas looking to make ends meet
The four segments in Struggling Societies reflect the nation’s least affluent group. These households contain economically-challenged singles and divorced and widowed individuals living in isolated towns and cities. With modest educations and lower-echelon jobs, many struggle to make ends meet. Many of their communities face endemic problems associated with poverty and crime. As a group, the households are older (ages range from 45 to 75), ethnically- mixed, without children and transient. Half have lived at the same address for fewer than five years. Many of these unmarried and unattached singles have moved into these rundown communities with few resources other than a hope of starting over.
Struggling Societies are scattered across the U.S., but are found especially in small city markets in the South and Midwest. Even though home values are low, about two-thirds of the national average, only 40 percent own houses. Roughly half rent their residences, a mix of older ranch houses and crowded apartment buildings. One in ten lives in mobile homes. In their mixed-use neighborhoods, homes are often surrounded by commercial businesses and buildings. Struggling Societies are not well-educated. Nearly half failed to finish high school. Almost 40 percent are unemployed. The majority work in mostly low-paying, entry-level jobs in health care, social services and the wholesale and retail trades. Advancement is difficult. With household incomes 60 percent below the national average, these Americans can only afford to lead unpretentious lifestyles.
Their small-city locations afford members of Struggling Societies some low-cost entertainment options. They go to local establishments, nightclubs, billiards halls and the occasional play or concert. However, most activities are home-based, whether it’s listening to music, watching TV, doing needlework or reading gaming magazines. These older adults pursue few athletic activities other than rooting for home-town teams playing professional basketball, football or baseball. For excitement, they regularly try their luck gambling, playing bingo or buying lottery tickets.
Even at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, Struggling Societies have a need for status recognition. Many of these households like to make a statement with their fashion, and they try to keep up with the latest styles - admittedly, sometimes spending more than they can afford. Most are price-sensitive shoppers who patronize discount department stores like Walmart, Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory and Payless Shoe Source. These consumers, however, regularly splurge for lingerie at Victoria’s Secret and pricier outfits at Talbots. They have similar aspirational tastes in cars: they like to drive fast cars with lots of options, yet the majority can’t afford to own a vehicle. Those who can usually settle for used subcompacts or tame sedans.
Struggling Societies have selective media tastes. Self-described TV addicts, many keep their TV sets on most of the day to watch sitcoms, movies, reality programs and game shows. They enjoy a variety of cable networks, including Soapnet, Lifetime, Oxygen, AMC, BET and Cinemax. This is a group filled with music fans, and they tune their radios to stations that play soul, gospel, rhythm and blues and salsa. While many of these households pick up a newspaper, they typically only read the classifieds, food and news sections. Group members say that most magazines are worth the money, and they like to read Harper’s Bazaar, Popular Science, Prevention and Ebony. A high number concede that they like advertisements, especially those they see on TV, at movie theaters and on buses and subways. They’re particularly fond of entertaining ads and, unlike more jaded consumers, they say that they remember ads when shopping and find them helpful.
They may be lower-income and transient, but Struggling Societies are politically engaged. They have solid rates for voter registration, are strong supporters of the Democratic Party and are centrists on many issues. Though they belong to few community groups other than veterans’ clubs, they’re willing to volunteer for a good cause and protest an issue that they feel strongly about. These are the Americans who don’t mind taking a stand - even if it upsets people.
With their low incomes and advancing ages, Struggling Societies have relatively little interest in digital technology. While a few have dial-up access to the Internet at home, most tend to go online using computers in libraries and local schools. They like Websites that offer games, lottery results, basketball scores and educational courses. Many of these single adults now frequent social media sites like myspace.com, mocospace.com and blackpeoplemeet.com. However, many also tell researchers that they’re confused by computers and claim that the Internet has had no impact on their lives.