WHITEWASHED

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Discussing Baby Boomers as if they're a monolithic group can be misleading to businesses trying to understand what makes someone in this cohort tick. Clearly, individuals in this band of 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 have diverse consumer behavior, life goals, attitudes and concerns about the world. Segmentation — rather than generalization — is key to understanding this market.

In an effort to closely study the attitudes of Baby Boomers by demographics, as well as to compare them with other generations, Washington, D.C.-based AARP commissioned a nationally representative survey of 3,666 Americans that was taken between April 11 and June 15, 2002. Of those surveyed, 2,127 were Boomers ages 38 to 56. The study, Boomers at Midlife, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, based in Fredericksburg, Va., and the results were released in late November 2002. The survey focuses on Boomer attitudes regarding seven life areas: relationships with family and friends, personal finances, religious or spiritual life, work or career, physical health, mental health, and leisure activities. Although the report includes demographic breakdowns by gender, age, marital status, education and income levels, we will focus on the racial and ethnic differences among Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white Boomers.

Almost 1 in 4 Boomers belong to a racial or ethnic minority, according to Census 2000. There are 10 million black Baby Boomers, 8 million Hispanics, 3 million Asians and close to 6 million multiracial or “other race� Boomers living in the U.S. today. And, according to the AARP study, big differences exist between how they view themselves and their world. For example, both white and Hispanic Boomers say that their relations with family and friends are the biggest priority in their lives, with 49 percent of whites and 37 percent of Hispanics saying so, whereas just 18 percent of black Boomers have the same priority. For black Boomers, religious or spiritual life is the most important aspect of their existence: 40 percent say so, compared with 20 percent of whites and 19 percent of Hispanics. Physical health is cited as most important by 22 percent of black and Hispanic Boomers, but by only 16 percent of whites.

In terms of satisfaction with various life areas, racial and ethnic patterns emerge. More than half of black and Hispanic Boomers (53 percent and 54 percent, respectively) say they are very satisfied with their religious and spiritual lives, whereas only 46 percent of whites feel the same. And though 49 percent of Hispanic Boomers are very satisfied with their work, only 40 percent of whites and 27 percent of blacks are. As for personal finances, satisfaction is low in all three groups.

Although black Boomers are generally more disappointed than whites or Hispanics with their current state of affairs, they are also the most confident of the three groups that things will improve in the near future. Sixty-six percent of black Boomers say they are very likely to achieve their goals for work or career in the next five years, versus 57 percent of whites.

The optimism of black Boomers may stem from the fact that they spend a lot of time thinking about those life areas that are in need of improvement. For instance, 67 percent of black Boomers say they have thought a great deal about their personal finances in the past month, compared with 53 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of whites. Similarly, 60 percent of blacks have thought a lot about their work, versus 48 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of white Baby Boomers.


For more information, contact Linda Fisher at lfisher@aarp.org , or (202) 434-6304.

EYE ON THE FUTURE

More than half of black Baby Boomers (54 percent) say they plan “a lot� for their future, compared with about a third of white Boomers (36 percent).

PERCENT OF BABY BOOMERS* WHO SAY THEY STRONGLY AGREE WITH THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS, BY RACE AND ETHNICITY:

WHITE BLACK HISPANIC**
I plan a lot for my future 36% 54% 47%
When I really want to do something, I usually find a way to succeed at it 63% 75% 70%
What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me 67% 77% 74%
There is little I can do to change important things in my life 7% 19% 22%
* Includes Americans ages 38 to 56.
**Hispanic can be of any race. Source: AARP/Princeton Survey Research Associates
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