American Consumer Project

The American Consumer Project: Meet our Families

Ad Age's Year-Long Look at the How Changing American Demographics and Economics Are Impacting Consumers and How We Reach Them

By Published on .

Ad Age took two tools that segment every county in the U.S. and married them together. We then teased out 11 representative counties and found a family in each to follow for a year. We'll be running stories about the changing demographics and economy of the U.S. and how these trends impact in a series we're calling the American Consumer Project. Meet our "panel "and get a quick description of their counties below. You'll note that Patchwork has a segment called "Mormon Enclaves" that we're not using. It broke out those counties (which are home to fewer than 2 million) out due to the nature of its project, but for our purposes it's not a distinction worth making. We therefore aren't using the Tapestry "High Hopes" segment to keep it even.

Thanks to Esri and the Patchwork Nation for letting us borrow the frameworks. Click those links for more detailed descriptions of the county types and their methodologies.

County Household Tapestry Patchwork
Champaign, IL
Liz, a white 26-year-old single renter who works for the University, which she also attended. She's saving for a laptop, but keeps spending her money on friends' weddings.
Scholars and Patriots
Shared traits in this segment include youth, with the attendant lower incomes. Because of their transient lifestyle and life stage, homeownership rates are low.
Campus and Careers
Cities and towns with young, educated populations; more secular and Democratic than other American communities.
Clark, NV
Chris, a white, 49-year-old divorced dad with custody of his 12-year-old on weekends. They do a lot of shopping together on weekends. How does she impact his buying habits the rest of the week?
Family Portrait
Youth, family life, and the presence of children are the common characteristics across these counties. The group is also ethnically diverse: more than 30% of the residents are of Hispanic. Most households include married couples with children who contribute to the group's large household size.
Boom Towns
Fast growing communities with rapidly diversifying populations.
East Baton Rouge Parish, LA
Sandra, a black 42-year-old single mother with two daughters, age 18 and 4. She'll spend what she can on her kids, but what's left over for her?
Metropolis counties include America's cities. They live in older, single-family, own fewer vehicles and commute to service-related jobs. This segments is diverse in housing, age, and income.
Minority Central
Home to large pockets of black residents but a below average percentage of Hispanics and Asians.
Grayson, TX
Jennifer, a white, married, 31-year old stay-at-home mother of two young boys . She does fellowship work part time at her church, runs daily errands and has two masters degrees.
American Quilt
Unlike Factories and Farms, these small rural towns represent a more affluent and diverse microcosm of small-town life. Manufacturing and agriculture aren't the only fixtures of the economy which includes government, service, construction, communication, and utilities.
Evangelical Epicenters
Communities with a high proportion of evangelical Christians, found mostly in small towns and suburbs; slightly older than the U.S. average; loyal Republican voters.
Hampden, MA
Andrew, a 23-year-old Latino millennial living with his white, Jewish girlfriend, age 27. Already an elected official dedicated to his community, he's on top of his world. She's getting a master's degree and waiting out the recession.
Traditional Living
The counties in this segment convey the perception of real middle America—hardworking, settled families. The group's higher median age (38) also conveys their lifestage—a number of older residents who are still taking care of children while anticipating retirement.
Service Worker Centers
Midsize and small towns with economies fueled by hotels, stores and restaurants and lower-than-average median household income by county.
Howard, MD
Rosemary, a 40-year-old married Asian- American with a toddler. Like many new moms, she uses the box from the baby gate as yet another baby (or doggie) gate.
High Society
Residents are affluent and well-educated. Their employment in high paying positions, such as professional or managerial occupations, is a primary reason for their affluence. Most households are married couple families.
Monied 'Burbs
Wealthier, highly educated communities with a median household income of $15,000 above the national county average.
Lake, FL
Basha, a white 74-year-old married empty-nester. She says she's computer illiterate but pays her bills online and uses Skype to stay in touch with far-flung kids and grandkids.
Senior Styles
Senior Styles segments illustrate the diversity among today's senior markets. Younger, more affluent empty-nesters, are traveling and relocating to warmer climates. Settled seniors are looking forward to retirement and remaining in their homes. Their lifestyles can be as diverse as their circumstances.
Emptying Nests
Home to many retirees and aging baby boomer populations; less diverse than the nation at large.
Leavenworth, KS
Jay , a white 30-year-old high school teacher and wrestling coach. He tried living in Lawrence but the more social setting wasn't worth the commute. He's living with a roommate and balancing grad school with work.
Upscale Avenues
Prosperity is the overriding attribute shared counties in Upscale Avenues. Residents have earned their success from years of hard work. They invest in their homes including landscaping and remodeling projects. Renters buy new furnishings and appliances. They also save and invest.
Military Bastions
Areas with high employment in the military or related to the presence of the military and large veteran populations; likely Republican voters though Democratic President Obama gained ground in 2008.
Los Angeles
Alfredo, a 46-year-old Cuban immigrant. He's married with a daughter in high school and a son in middle school. His daughter has Ivy- league grades but Harvard is physically and economically a long way away.
Global Roots
Ethnic diversity is the common thread among the counties in Global Roots. As new households, these residents are young, earn modest incomes, and tend to rent 
in multi-unit buildings. Reflecting recent immigration trends; half of all households have immigrated within 10 years.
Immigration Nation
Communities with large Latino populations and lower-than-average incomes, typically clustered in the South and Southwest.
New York
Michael, a 31-year-old affluent black man living with his Hispanic partner and a roommate in Manhattan. He has big-city issues (tight space, no car) but both discretion and discretionary income to manage them. .
Solo Acts
Solo Acts are singles who prefer city life. Many are young, just starting out in more densely populated U.S. neighborhoods; others are well-established renters with no kids. They tend to be well-educated, working professionals with considerable discretionary income.
Industrial Metropolis
Densely populated, highly diverse urban centers; incomes trend higher than the national average and voters lean Democratic.
Teton, MT
Frankie, a white 46-year-old married mother. This farming family has two daughters in college in Helena and a third in high school. The Rocky mountains are close, but the nearest big-box is 80 miles away.
Factories and Farms
These counties represent rural life—from small towns and villages to farms. Employment in manufacturing and agricultural industries is typical in these. Population change is nominal.
Tractor Country
Mostly rural and remote smaller towns with older populations and large agricultural sectors

Illustrations by David Flaherty

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