Twin-conomics: 10 (Times Two!) Stats About How Fertility Is Creating a New Market

The Ways in Which Drastic Changes in Household Size Impact Spending

By Published on .

AdAgeStat and @adagestat will be on a brief hiatus, other than our weekly Foursquare chart. Here's why:

I used to think I was as average as could be. I was a white, middle-class, Midwestern, suburban male in a family with married parents and a sister. We didn't have a white picket fence, but we might as well have. I'm left-handed, so at least I was in one minority.

The demographics of the U.S. have changed a lot in my Gen-X lifetime, leaving me in fewer majorities. But nothing changed my own profile as much as this simple question:

"How do you feel about a big family?" asked the ultrasound technician.

Demographics drive spending.

My new demographic drives it in a minivan. To Costco.

If it seems like there are more twins than there used to be, it's because there are. Many, many, more. More parents are having babies later. Counter-intuitively, the odds of having multiples goes up as you get older. That's without fertility treatments, which can account for up to 40% of multiple births, according to the Center for Disease Control. That means 60% happen naturally. As an aside, it's kind of presumptuous to ask, and parents of multiples see right through the veil of, "Do twins run in your family?"

Here are 10 (time two!) top facts about twins and multiples. Then we'll talk about why this all matters to you, perhaps even more than it matters to me.

  • In the U.S. in 2009, there were 25 pairs of twin girls born who were named Heaven and its backwards counterpart, Naveah, ranking it a tie for the sixth-most-common naming pair for girls. For boys, alliteration was key, with the top five pairs all combinations such as Jacob/Joshua, Matthew/Michael, etc.
  • The first "test-tube baby" was born in July 1978.
  • Since 1980, the twin birthrate has risen 72% to a record high of 32.6 per 1,000 births in 2008, the latest year data is available. The rate had actually reached a plateau in recent years before climbing again.
  • The actual number of twin births has increased 103%.
  • The number of total births has only grown 18%.
  • The rate of triplets or other "high order" births has quadrupled from 37 births per 100,000 to 148.
  • The actual number of "high order" births has increased 375%.
  • The fertility rate is mostly unchanged since 1980, but had dropped 42% since 1960.
  • The average age of a woman giving birth for the first time has increased, but that's the result of more than just a rise in older women giving birth. The teenage birth rate has decreased over the past 20 years.
  • 14.2% of births are to moms over 35, including 23.2% of twins and 33.8% of "high order" births.
  • 2.7% of births are to moms over 40, including 5.7% of twins and 8.3% of "high order" births.
  • At the state level, the states with the highest rate of twins are: New Jersey (43.5/1,000); Massachusetts (43.2); and Connecticut (42.7). Not coincidentally, those tend to be states with higher median ages of mothers.
  • The states with the highest rates of "high order" births are: New Jersey again (260.3/100,000); North Dakota (227.3) and Nebraska (213.3).
  • California, Texas and New York lead in raw totals.
  • In 1970, the fertility rate peaked for women age 20-24 at 167.8 births per 1,000 women.
  • By 2008 the peak had shifted to women age 25-29 and the peak rate dropped to 115.1.
  • Meanwhile the birthrate of women aged 35-39 grew from 31.7 to 46.9.
  • The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs has more than 25,000 members.
  • What we have come to know as the "minivan" was introduced for the 1984 model year, largely because the baby boomers were starting to give birth to the millennials, but the timing couldn't have been better for the parents of multiples.
  • According to Google Trends, the term "moms of multiples" first showed up in searches in early 2009. Today that search term yields 47,000 results.

So why does it matter to marketers?

This blog is, at the end of the day, about understanding your consumers, segmenting them, targeting them, and learning why they buy what they buy.

Again, using myself as an example for this post, I am suddenly making myself much easier to target , and my buying patters are going to become very clear and set for the foreseeable future.

I am moving into a more tightly defined, yet growing segment. Three-person households account for 16% of the U.S. total. Five-person households? Just 6%. Married couple families fell to under 50% of U.S. households for the first time ever in 2009. Married couples with children under 18? Just 20.6% of households, a number which has dropped nearly two percentage points since 2002.

Making me easier to find is a boon because I will be moving from a household type that typically spends 118% of the national average on consumer goods and services to one that spends 157%. I will spend more than average on ... let's check the Consumer Expenditure Survey. ... Just about everything.

Yeah. Ouch.

Some highlights of spending patterns in households of five:

  • 30% more than the average household on clothing for boys and girls age 2-15.
  • 70% more than average on food at home, typically one of the largest expense categories, including 185% of average on cereal and milk.
  • I get a slight break on alcohol (77%, because who has time to drink?), health-care (95%, because we're young-ish) and postage (who has time to write letters?).
  • I will spend 25% more on housing than average and 27% more on transportation, although those huge cost centers will be a slightly below average percent of my total spending due to how much I have to spend on everything else.

In short, if you have a product or service to market to someone with more kids under three than hands to carry them, I probably need to consume it, and likely more than one of it. You can guess all of this from my new demographic, which is growing and needs some pretty specialized products and more than most of other kinds of products. Like diapers. Lots of those. You're welcome.

Reaching me is going to be slightly more challenging than usual, however. My TV consumption is likely going to drop off markedly in the near term. My lap will be overtaken with babies, not laptops, so internet consumption will switch to my mobile device.

Now I know what you're thinking, and yes, reaching my Mr. . Mom of Twins is pretty important, too. But hey, I buy toys, too, and not just ones that come with USB cables.

My credit card is standing by. How do you plan to reach me?

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