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There She Is…

To the Editors of American Demographics:

I am researching the status of married women and their buying power. I'd like to know what percentage of women control the family purse strings and are the decision makers for family activities such as travel. This information will help to supplement my marketing efforts on behalf of the long-running television special, “Mrs. America Pageant,� which will enjoy its 25th anniversary this year.

Bob Mazza

Public Relations Consultant

Mrs. America Pageant

Beverly Hills, Calif.

Dear Bob:

Here are a few facts and figures to pack away before you jet off to Hawaii next month for the pageant. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, 41 percent of American women are married. Apply that number to the Census Bureau's 2000 population count, and you get nearly 59 million married women.

Of those women who've said, “I do,� 23 percent are under the age of 35, 27 percent are between 35 and 44, 22 percent are between 45 and 54, and 28 percent are 55 and older.

It's no secret that these women often have the last word when it comes to family purchases. Washington, D.C.-based market research firm WomanTrend reports that when it comes to the grocery list, women decide what to buy in 80 percent of families. But their influence isn't confined to the aisles of the Shop N Save. In fact, according to WomanTrend, women are also likely to give the go ahead when it comes to travel expenditures (women make the decisions regarding travel in 80 percent of families), medical expenditures (70 percent) and automobile and insurance purchases (55 percent each).

And these women aren't just making the decisions on what to purchase; they're also doing much of the actual purchasing. According to the Current Population Survey, only 21 percent of Americans are married women, but consumer spending data from Mediamark Research Inc. reveals that they represent a larger share of the population doing the spending. For instance, 34 percent of all adults who spend $100 or more on cameras in a 12-month period are married women. They also account for 35 percent of all adults who spend more than $500 on home improvements, 44 percent of all adults who spend more than $5,000 on a domestic vacation and 35 percent of adults who spent more than $6,000 on a foreign vacation in 2000.

And since we're talking about promoting a beauty pageant, aren't you curious about how these women see themselves? According to Simmons Market Research Bureau, married women are markedly more likely than nonmarried women to describe themselves as “trustworthy,� “kind,� “passionate,� “organized� and “efficient.� They are less likely than nonmarried women to say they are “open-minded,� “funny,� “straightforward� and “brave.� They're also less likely to describe themselves as “vain.� Then again, isn't surviving a marriage these days more like a talent competition than a swimsuit contest?

John Fetto

Research Editor

I Scream, You Scream

To the Editors of American Demographics:

I am an MBA student at Baker University in Kansas City doing marketing research on premium ice cream. Do you have any demographic information about the public's buying habits for this product?

Christalyn Leary

Lee's Summit, Mo.

Dear Christalyn:

Grab a spoon, because we've got the dish on eaters of premium ice cream. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Economic Census, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops scooped up more than $2.4 billion in sales in 1997 (the latest year for which data is available). Nationwide, there are more than 11,000 ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, 40 percent of which qualify as “super premium,� meaning they make their own ice cream on the premises.

That much was easy. Finding the demographics of ice cream store customers, on the other hand, proved to be something of a cold headache. According to National Dipper, the magazine for the frozen dessert industry, no major studies have been conducted to obtain a profile of premium parlor patrons. Why? Most ice cream stores are still mom-and-pop shops that lack the funds needed to finance such a study.

So rather than conduct our own informal survey of premium ice cream eaters — and believe me, there are plenty in-house — we contacted the folks at Houston-based Marble Slab Creamery, a chain of super premium ice cream parlors with over 200 stores nationwide. Chris Dull, vice president of franchise development at Marble Slab, says that when selecting a new store location, his primary criteria is finding an area with a concentration of 17- to 45-year-olds — the prime consumers of premium ice cream. The company also looks for a median household income of $50,000 or higher. (It's no wonder they look for a wealthy clientele; the average cost of a serving of Marble Slab ice cream is between $3.00 and $3.50.) But they don't concentrate on gender. Dull says that, contrary to popular belief, there is no hard evidence that one gender eats more ice cream than the other. He adds that while his company's stores are located primarily in the South and West, they've found that the same seasonal differences in ice cream consumption are present in both warm and cold locales. As for seasonal differences, is there ever a time when one wouldn't want to eat ice cream?

John Fetto

Research Editor

False Impressions

To the Editors of American Demographics:

I must bring to your attention how data can be misused and give erroneous impressions. Case in point: the table on page 64 in the June 2001 issue, which is entitled “Sugar Daddies.� True, West Concord, Mass. has a high per capita income — one of the highest in the nation. (I'm a former resident.) It also has one of the highest number of single men in Massachusetts. Why? On the outskirts of West Concord is a medium-to-maximum security prison!

So, when one naively juxtaposes these data points, one can be led to assume that there are plenty of single, wealthy men there — when that isn't the case. Now I know that the ultimate responsibility lies with the vendor of the data, but the caveat still holds. Think before arriving to conclusions indicated by data crunching.

On the whole, I enjoy American Demographics. Keep up the good work — but let's be careful out there!

Thomas M. Bodenberg

Senior Research Associate

The Conference Board

New York City

Dear Thomas:

Thanks for sharing your knowledge of West Concord. The list of “Sugar Daddies� you mentioned was indeed created by looking for cities with a high concentration of households with high incomes and a high concentration of single men — a practice, which as I'm sure you know, is common in the field of market research when attempting to locate potential customers. Of course, as you pointed out, this method is not accurate 100 percent of the time. We were wrong to print the list without first checking for factors that may have skewed the outcome one way or another.

In this issue of American Demographics, you'll find an entire spread on where one can find wealthy singles (page 38). And while not every one of the counties and cities identified are guaranteed hot spots for wealthy singles, we are confident that the list is a good indicator of where one is likely to find this much sought after bunch. Thanks again for your interest in American Demographics.

John Fetto

Research Editor


Who eats store-bought premium ice cream?

Average household income: $63,136
Average age: 43
Northeast 135
South 85
Midwest 102
West 92
College student 121
Parents 106
Source: Mediamark Research Inc.
The national average is 100. For example, folks in the Northeast are 35 percent more likely to indulge in store-bought premium ice cream, while those in the South are 15 percent less likely to do so.

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