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I Want My MTV

To the Editors of American Demographics:

Can you tell me if people with lower household incomes are more likely to subscribe to cable services? I heard that this might be the case, since those with lower incomes don't necessarily have the money for other forms of entertainment, such as concerts, movies, etc. Certainly, this isn't the case — or is it?

Sue Routhier

Washington, D.C

Dear Sue:

You were correct in questioning what you heard, because it is incorrect. One's propensity to subscribe to cable television services actually increases steadily with household income, according to New York City-based market research firm Mediamark Research, Inc. Fifty-four percent of households whose residents' combined annual income is less than $25,000 receive cable television in their homes, compared with 62 percent of those with incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 and 70 percent of those who earn between $50,000 and $74,999. Subscription rates are highest among Americans whose annual household income exceeds $75,000; 75 percent of them have cable.

That's not to say that lower income households are less important to cable providers. In fact, despite their lower subscription rates, Americans whose household income is less than $50,000 account for more than half (53 percent) of all cable homes, while those whose income is $75,000 or above make up just 27 percent of all cable users.

Of course, cable companies are providing customers with more than just their MTV. Many Americans also tap into the World Wide Web with the help of their local cable provider. Santa Monica-based research firm Centris estimates that some 8.8 million households nationwide (8 percent of all U.S. homes) access the Internet via a cable modem. And as with cable television, the wealthy are the most likely to connect to the Web through a coaxial cable. Fully 18 percent of households whose residents' combined annual income exceeds $75,000 use a cable modem at home, compared with 11 percent of Americans who earn between $50,000 and $74,999 and 7 percent of those whose annual income is between $25,000 and $49,999. Only 3 percent of American households with incomes below $25,000 a year have cable Internet access at home. For most people in this income group, dial-up will have to do.


To the Editors of American Demographics:

I work for the National Fraternal Congress of America, the trade association of America's fraternal benefit societies. We represent 77 organizations, which have close to 10 million members. Is there any way to find out how many people in the United States belong to any membership organization, fraternal or otherwise?

Anthony Snyder

National Fraternal Congress of America

Naperville, Ill.

Dear Anthony:

Fraternities, with their secret handshakes and passwords, may be emblematic of the members-only club, but there are scores of other membership organizations with which Americans become affiliated. According to data culled by American Demographics from New York City-based research firm Simmons Market Research Bureau, 56 percent of adults (114 million people) belong to some sort of membership organization, and of those, only 9 percent belong to a fraternal order.

Churches, temples and synagogues are by far the most widely joined establishments, according to our analysis, with 83.3 million members nationwide. In fact, 41 percent of all Americans claim they are members of a religious organization. Unions are a distant second, with 17.8 million members (9 percent of adults), followed closely by Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), to which 16.4 million (8 percent of adults) belong. (For the full list of organizations, see chart below.)

Overall, women are slightly more likely than men to be joiners: 58 percent of women belong to at least one club, compared with 54 percent of men. PTAs, art associations and religious groups have predominantly female memberships. Not surprisingly, men outnumber women in veterans' clubs, by a margin of 5 to 2, and in fraternal orders, by a margin of 2 to 1. Unions, country clubs, civic clubs and regional development committees also maintain the “old boys club� tradition.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, whites and blacks are equally likely to belong to various organizations, yet Hispanics and Asians are significantly less likely to join most types of clubs. For instance, Hispanics are 25 percent less likely than the average American to belong to a PTA even though, on average, Hispanics have more children. And Asians, despite their higher than average levels of education and income, are 26 percent less likely than the average adult to belong to an art association.

Speaking of non-joiners, Americans who are not members of an organized religion are generally less likely to get involved in clubs. Just 30 percent of those who have no religious preference belong to any member-based group, compared with 61 percent of those who are Christian or Jewish.


Americans with incomes under $25,000 a year are less likely than their fellow countrymen to participate in most forms of entertainment.

Go to bars/clubs 66
Eat out 64
Go to museums 46
Play cards 85
Play video games 78
Do yoga 62
*The national average is 100. For example, adults whose household income is less than $25,000 a year are 34 percent less likely to go to bars and clubs than the average adult.
Source: Mediamark Research, Inc.


Lower income households are less likely than higher income households to receive premium cable channels, such as HBO and Cinemax, or to have a satellite dish.


Less than $25,000 23% 9%
$25,000-$49,999 33% 14%
$50,000-$74,999 40% 15%
$75,000 or more 44% 17%
All households 34% 13%
Source: Mediamark Research, Inc.


Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to be members of a club or an association.


ALL 18-34 35-49 50+
Church, temple or synagogue 41% 32% 40% 49%
Union 9% 6% 10% 10%
PTA 8% 5% 14% 5%
Fraternal order 5% 2% 3% 9%
Art association 5% 3% 4% 6%
Veterans' club 5% 1% 2% 11%
Civic club 3% 2% 2% 4%
Business club 3% 2% 4% 4%
Country club 3% 2% 2% 3%
Environmental organization 3% 3% 3% 4%
Religious club 2% 1% 2% 4%
Human rights organization 1% 2% 1% 1%
Regional development committee 1% — 1% 1%
Any organization 56% 44% 57% 66%
— Sample size too small Source: Simmons Market Research Bureau


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