Women of a Certain Age

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To the Editors of American Demographics:

I am writing a research paper on women aged 50 and over for my marketing class at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). I'd like some background on how to better segment this demographic. Could you please provide me with some basic data, and direct me to some of the more obscure facts about this group?

Matt Terry

Dear Matt:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 41.7 million women aged 50 and older; they account for 15.2 percent of the U.S. population. By 2005, this group will number 46.4 million and compose 16.2 percent of the population. Certainly, there is a need to further subdivide this group.

For starters, segmenting these women by age, you will find that 51.2 percent are under 65. Nearly one-quarter (23.9 percent) are between 65 and 74, 17.7 percent are between 75 and 84, and 7.3 percent are 85 or older.

Along racial lines, 80.7 percent of these women are non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asians represent 9.5 percent, 6.4 percent, and 2.9 percent of this population, respectively. Only 0.5 percent of these women are Native American.

Twice a year, Simmons Market Research Bureau asks 33,000 people to answer hundreds of questions about product usage, media consumption, and lifestyle attitudes as part of their National Consumer Study. From that survey we can determine that only 43 percent of women aged 50 and over are married. The remainder are either widowed (44 percent), divorced or separated (8 percent), or have never married (5 percent). As a side note, 0.5 percent of these gals are currently sporting an engagement ring.

Even though three in four (74 percent) of these women are grandmothers, many of them must still be alert to ankle-biters around the house: 11 percent of this group live with children (either their own or someone else's). Minority women of this age are significantly more likely to do so. Twenty-three percent of black women, 32 percent of Asian women, and 24 percent of Hispanic women admit to living with kids. Only 9 percent of white women claim the same.

But kids are not the only precious items these women have at home. Many women this age have a tendency to collect fragile things. In fact, 11 percent collect porcelain figurines, 8 percent amass crystal figurines, 9 percent accumulate ornaments, 4 percent collect decorative or commemorative plates, and 2 percent stockpile porcelain cottages or houses.

However, there are some other collections that are perhaps even more tempting to the eyes of a tot. Eight percent of women aged 50 and older collect dolls, 2 percent have a collection of Disney memorabilia, and 2 percent have a passion for antique toys.

But that's not all that's collecting dust on these women's shelves. Six percent also collect coins, 4 percent hoard stamps, and another 4 percent have a collection of miniatures. Two percent even collect pre-paid calling cards. Somebody contact the Antiques Roadshow.

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