Mainly Generation Y African-American singles and single families established in mid-market cities
Young African-American singles and single parents dominate Urban Ambition, a segment of apartment-dwelling households in urban fringe neighborhoods. Many are under 35 years old, have some college education and earn low wages from first-time jobs in retail and service industries. Nearly one in five segment members are out of work. Their neighborhoods are characterized by low-rise apartments, rental houses, secondhand stores and funky cafes. This is a transient segment of young adults, many not long removed from the bedrooms of their parents’ homes. More than two-thirds have lived at the same address for fewer than three years, and they’re always on the hunt for a better job and larger apartment near reliable transportation.
With their tight budgets - incomes are less than $50,000 - Urban Ambition can’t afford the trendiest fashions, status cars or yuppie values. They’ll go out to a movie or comedy club but skip costlier nightlife such as plays, concerts and nightclubs. They do relatively little traveling and eating at fine-dining restaurants. However, they will join organic food-buying clubs, shop the clearance racks at Ross Dress for Less and Burlington Coat Factory, and spend their nights at home listening to music and watching movies on pay cable channels. They will occasionally splurge on the latest consumer electronics and cell phones - as long as they can get Internet access at a bargain price. There’s a lot of pride in these households, with residents vying to create better lives for themselves and their children. They go to colleges and technical schools to improve their employment chances, and they participate in the PTA.
In their apartments, Urban Ambition have media tastes that lean toward media like Jet, BET and radio stations that play rhythm and blues or gospel music. With many households leery of the high cost of city cinemas, they opt to pay for cable TV channels to watch movies and adult sitcoms. They pick up a variety of magazines to stay current with the latest fashion and pop culture, reading publications ranging from Elle and Men’s Fitness to Lucky and Rolling Stone. Internet access at home is quickly becoming a necessity, for information - finding a job, learning about an illness - and entertainment, including downloading music and listening to Internet radio. Although these households like ads that help them keep up with music and fashion trends, they don’t rely on them to make purchase decisions. They prefer ads in public places that are funny and entertaining while maintaining a soft sell.
Like other young segments, Urban Ambition is a liberal world. Its members vote Democratic on economic issues but are mixed on social ones, though they are tough on crime. They believe personal achievement is important, and they talk of wanting to advance in their careers as soon as possible - and not just to gain the respect of friends and relatives. They see money - or the lack thereof - as one of their biggest problems. For these young adults, success is measured in cash.
Urban Ambition are young, black singles living in urban fringe areas. Virtually all the household heads are African-American, 80 percent are single and more than 40 percent are single parents - a rate more than four times the national average. With nearly 40 percent of household heads under the age of 35, many are just beginning life on their own. Their educations are below- average though the highest concentration of householders, 35 percent, has completed some college. Nearly two-thirds work in low-level sales and service-sector jobs in retail, military, public administration and food services, but nearly 20 percent are unemployed - the highest rate in the nation.
Urban Ambition typically live in dense neighborhoods on the outskirts of big cities. Nearly two- thirds of households are found in the South. Most inhabit rental units in older homes and low-rise buildings built before 1960. While their more successful peers have fled for a home in the suburbs or newer apartments in better neighborhoods, they’re still renting in a transient part of town where home values are under $140,000. Nearly half have lived at the same address for less than a year; nearly three-quarters for fewer than three years. Many are okay with their apartments not far from vibrant downtown neighborhoods. For some, nothing is more relaxing than hanging out on their front steps and catching up with their neighbors.
Urban Ambition simply can’t afford life’s finer things. They travel less than other Americans. They’re less likely to go to nightclubs, plays, concerts and restaurants. Their idea of a date is to go to a comedy club or watch a movie; family, horror, comedy and drama movies are all popular. They spend a lot of evenings at home, reading, cooking, watching TV and listening to music. Their drive to improve their lot is seen in their above-average tendency to take education classes and practice a musical instrument. They also exercise regularly, playing tennis, basketball and football as well as taking aerobics classes and engaging in in-line skating.
Urban Ambition find joy in consumption and have a need for status recognition that is constrained only by their budgets. They like to make a unique fashion statement and try to keep up with the hippest clothes. They’re early adopters who are often the first among their friends to check out a new store. Yet their low incomes require that they shop sales and patronize stores that offer low prices. They shop at retailers like Ross Dress for Less, Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory and Big Lots as well as Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch. They’re fans of electronics - especially smartphones and MP3 players - and a strong market for Radio Shack. Few own cars - nearly nine out of ten households in this segment own none - and those that do typically buy inexpensive, used imports. While they rarely go out to restaurants, they still like trying new foods and drinks. Many shop at organic and natural food stores - that is, when they’re not picking up fast food or grocery takeout.
Urban Ambition are a solid market for traditional media. With their strong interest in magazines, they read Jet, Ebony and O. Radio is one of their main sources of entertainment, and they tune in to stations that offer gospel, hip hop, classic rock, Spanish and rhythm and blues music. They watch TV to stay informed and are big fans of BET and cable channels that skew young and urban: MTV2, VH1 and Adult Swim. Late-night TV is popular, as are Lifetime, TMC and a number of pay channels - HBO, Encore and Starz. A tough ad market, they’re no fans of TV commercials unless they’re funny, but they’re more receptive to ads displayed on the public transit they usually take to work. They say they rarely make purchase decisions based on ads, however.
Urban Ambition are just now embarking on their independent lives, and their values and attitudes are still in flux. Although they vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their numbers are about evenly divided between those who are very liberal and those who are very conservative. In their dense neighborhoods, they’re understandably concerned about crime and violence and they’re not shy about speaking their minds on the issues: these young Americans will join a protest march if the cause is right.
At the start of their careers, Urban Ambition also express a strong need for fulfilment through work. They want to get to the top of their careers, and they’re willing to give up time with their families to advance. Although they like to enjoy life, they view it as their duty to better their situation before having a good time. Ultimately, they want their friends and relatives to admire their successes.
These young people describe themselves as optimistic, self-assured, tolerant and smart. They like to take risks and learn new things. They think it’s important to look young and be attractive to the opposite sex. That doesn’t seem much of a challenge because they also concede that they make friends easily, have many acquaintances and often are the life of the party. By their own admission, they stand out in a crowd..
With their low incomes - under $48,000 - and few assets, Urban Ambition rank near the bottom for most banking and investment assets. They have few investments other than company stock (and 529 College Savings Plans, for those who are raising children). They will buy savings bonds but the total value of their securities is less than $25,000. While a majority say they dislike the idea of going into debt, a high number are still paying off loans for school or a car. Few carry credit cards, preferring debit cards or cash. Most buy no insurance products other than low- balance renter’s coverage.
While Urban Ambition are a healthy market for traditional media, their young age makes them denizens of the digital word as well. These 20-somethings go online to look for a job, find a date, take a class and play a game. Among their favorite sites: hotjobs.com, tagged.com, shockwave.com and phoenix.edu. Because of tight budgets, they sometimes can’t afford high- speed Internet access, and they’re more than twice as likely as average Americans to go online at libraries. However, these young people also tend to be hip to the latest telecommunications technology and they will go online using their cell phones. While many are still uncomfortable shopping online, they’re more likely than the general population to do some of their work at home through telecommuting, which explains, in part, why many plan to add more online services in the next year.