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The American Middle Class - US - December 2009

With approximately one out of two Americans being middle class, it is vital that marketers understand how the Great Recession has changed their perceptions and buying habits. Some of the key topics covered in this report include:

  • How economic challenges are reshaping purchasing behavior
  • What motivates the middle class to make a purchase
  • An analysis of demographics within the middle class, how their behaviors are different, and which segments are spending more than others
  • The middle class’ attitudes towards dining out, health products, entertainment (CDs, DVDs, etc.), and technology
  • Specific strategies, tactics, and brand platforms likely to appeal to the middle class
  • An examination of strategies used by companies that have succeeded during the recession

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Consumer survey data
            • Advertising creative
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                  • Terms
                  • Executive Summary

                    • Snapshot of the middle class
                      • The recession wreaks havoc
                        • Psychological profile
                          • Insights and opportunities
                            • Inspire Insights
                              • Advertising and brand snapshot
                                • Purchasing behaviors
                                  • Attitudes towards dining out
                                    • Purchase of vitamins/supplements
                                      • Purchase of apparel and sports products
                                        • Purchase of technology and audio products
                                          • Where they shop
                                            • Online shopping
                                            • Insights and Opportunities

                                              • ‘Value’ is the new value
                                                  • Figure 1: Volkswagen television ad, 2009
                                                  • Figure 2: McDonald’s television ad, 2009
                                                • A new frugality…
                                                    • Figure 3: Attitudes and opinions related to the recession, by class segment, October 2009
                                                  • …but still splurging
                                                    • A time to rebuild trust with consumers
                                                        • Figure 4: Attitudes and opinions related to the recession, by class segments, October 2009
                                                    • Inspire Insights

                                                        • Brand USA
                                                          • It’s a grand old flag
                                                            • Implications
                                                              • Premium and Cutthroat
                                                                • Saving and splurging all at once
                                                                  • Implications
                                                                  • Demographic Snapshot of the Middle Class

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • The Middle Class: Eluding easy definitions
                                                                        • Household income
                                                                            • Figure 5: Income distribution, by class, 2009
                                                                          • In the middle class, three in four are white
                                                                            • Figure 6: Race distribution, by class, 2009
                                                                          • Middle class and Hispanic origin
                                                                            • Figure 7: Hispanic origin distribution, by class, 2009
                                                                          • Education attained
                                                                            • Figure 8: Educational attainment, by class 2009
                                                                          • Household size
                                                                            • Figure 9: Household size, by class 2009
                                                                        • Psychological Profile

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • Top three wants: free time, a successful career, and children
                                                                              • Figure 10: Life priorities, February 2008
                                                                            • Everyone is doing better than me
                                                                              • Figure 11: ‘What I have’ versus ‘What most people have,’ February 2008
                                                                            • Middle-income respondents budgeting to beat the recession
                                                                              • Figure 12: Year-over-year budgeting trends, by household income, July 2009
                                                                            • Middles like to play
                                                                              • Figure 13: Attitudes and opinions about entertainment, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                            • American Diversity feels financially secure
                                                                              • Figure 14: Attitudes and behaviors about finances, by middle class Mosaics, April 2008-June 2009
                                                                            • The future looks bright
                                                                              • Figure 15: How the middle class sees the future, by race/Hispanic origin and household income, February 2008
                                                                          • Decision-making Drivers

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                              • The Great Recession ravages the middle class
                                                                                  • Figure 16: Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, January 2000-January 2009
                                                                                  • Figure 17: U.S. real median household income, by race and Hispanic origin, 1967-2008
                                                                                • Consumer confidence tanks
                                                                                  • Figure 18: University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS), 2001-09
                                                                                • Trading down en masse
                                                                                  • Figure 19: Spending at dollar stores compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                  • Figure 20: Usage of warehouse clubs, by household income, 2008 and 2009
                                                                                • A favorable CPI helps ease the pain
                                                                                    • Figure 21: Consumer Price Index—all items and key consumer markets, August 2007, 2008 and 2009
                                                                                  • Tentative signs of a recovery
                                                                                  • Brand Qualities

                                                                                      • Apple
                                                                                        • Netflix
                                                                                          • Panera Bread Co.
                                                                                              • Figure 22: U.S. sales of leading bread-based fast casual chains, 2006-08
                                                                                            • McDonald’s
                                                                                                • Figure 23: U.S. sales of leading burger QSR chains, 2006 and 2008
                                                                                              • Volkswagen Beetle and Routan
                                                                                              • Innovation and Innovators

                                                                                                  • Innovators: Food and beverage
                                                                                                    • Innovation: Health and wellness
                                                                                                      • Innovation: Apparel
                                                                                                        • Innovation: Technology
                                                                                                        • Advertising and Promotion

                                                                                                          • Optimism sells
                                                                                                            • Adspend by category leaders
                                                                                                              • Figure 24: Adspend, by category leaders, 2007 and 2008
                                                                                                            • Website Analysis
                                                                                                              • McDonald’s
                                                                                                                • Apple
                                                                                                                  • Netflix
                                                                                                                    • Volkswagen
                                                                                                                      • Panera
                                                                                                                        • Analysis of commercials
                                                                                                                          • Figure 25: Netflix television ad, 2009
                                                                                                                          • Figure 26: Volkswagen television ad, 2009
                                                                                                                          • Figure 27: McDonald’s television ad, 2009
                                                                                                                          • Figure 28: Apple television ad, 2009
                                                                                                                      • Attitudes and Opinions Related to the Recession

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                          • Most spending less, postponing purchases, etc.
                                                                                                                            • Figure 29: Attitudes and opinions related to the recession, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                        • Attitudes towards Food

                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                            • Middle class dines out
                                                                                                                              • Figure 30: Fast food, other dining out and gourmet food bought in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                            • Middle class spending more than other classes on dining out, cookware
                                                                                                                              • Figure 31: Spending less on fast food, other dining out, cookware and gourmet food compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                            • Middles have interest in farmers’ markets and ethnic foods
                                                                                                                              • Figure 32: Specialty food stores visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                            • Small Town Contentment like family restaurants, and more
                                                                                                                              • Figure 33: Usage of resaurants, by middle class Mosaic groups, April 2008-June 2009
                                                                                                                          • Purchase of Vitamins and Supplements

                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                              • More affluent are purchasing more health-related items
                                                                                                                                • Figure 34: Household purchase of vitamins/supplements and food/drink related to health in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                              • Upper class and buying health products
                                                                                                                                • Figure 35: Spending less on vitamins/supplements and food/drink related to health compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                              • More affluent and picking vitamins
                                                                                                                                • Figure 36: Involved in vitamins/supplements and food/drink related to health in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                              • American Diversity taking preventative medicine
                                                                                                                                • Figure 37: Incidence of vitamin/mineral consumption, by middle class Mosaic groups, April 2008-June 2009
                                                                                                                            • Purchase of Apparel and Sports Products

                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                • Clothing/footwear holds its own
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 38: Apparel and sports products purchased in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                • Lower class buying clothes and footwear
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 39: Spending on clothing/footwear compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                • Purchase of Entertainment Items

                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                    • Middle- and upper-class respondents indulge
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 40: Leisure and entertainment purchases in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                    • Books and travel are in
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 41: Spending more on leisure and entertainment purchases compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                  • Purchase of Technology and Audio Products

                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                      • Middles buying technology
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 42: Technology products or audio stereo equipment purchased in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                      • Middle class spending less on audio/stereo compared to lower and upper classes
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 43: Spending on audio/stereo equipment compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                    • Where They Shop

                                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                                        • Discounters and mass merchandisers are in
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 44: Selected large retailers visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                        • Middle class are still shopping at specialty retailers
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 45: Specialty footwear/clothing stores visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                        • Middle class shopping at dollar stores
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 46: Discount stores visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                      • Shopping Online

                                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                                          • Middle class purchase books, music, etc., online
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 47: Purchases of miscellaneous products made on the internet in the past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                          • Middles buying technology online
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 48: Purchases of technology products made on the internet in the past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                        • Attitudes Towards the Internet and Technology

                                                                                                                                          • Key point
                                                                                                                                            • Middles like the internet and technology
                                                                                                                                              • Figure 49: Attitudes and opinions about the internet and consumer electronics, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                            • Aspiring Contemporaries will pay for electronics
                                                                                                                                              • Figure 50: Attitudes and behaviors regarding electronic devices, by middle class Mosaic groups, April 2008-June 2009
                                                                                                                                          • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                                                              • Edgers
                                                                                                                                                • Pinchers
                                                                                                                                                  • Plodders
                                                                                                                                                    • Cluster characteristics
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 51: Middle class clusters, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 52: General consumer attitudes, by middle class clusters, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 53: Attitudes and opinions related to the recession, by middle class clusters, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                    • Cluster demographics
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 54: Middle class clusters, by gender, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 55: Middle class clusters, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 56: Middle class clusters, by Hispanic origin, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                    • Cluster methodology
                                                                                                                                                    • Custom Consumer Groups

                                                                                                                                                      • 18-34 middles buying gourmet foods, etc.
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 57: Fast food, other dining out, cookware and gourmet food bought in past year—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                        • Vitamins for over-55 middle class, foods/beverages for 18-34 middles
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 58: Household purchase of vitamins/supplements and food/drink related to health—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • 18-34 middles buying sports/athletic products
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 59: Apparel and sports products purchased in past year—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • 18-34 middles more likely to buy technology
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 60: Technology products or audio stereo equipment purchased in past year—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 61: Stores types visited in past two years—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • Over-55s going to farmers’ markets
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 62: Specialty food stores visited in past two years—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • The recession has changed 18-34s
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 63: Attitudes and opinions related to the recession—middle class, by age, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • Appendix: Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                                                                            • Middle and upper a little more likely to have purchased green products
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 64: Involved in “green” products purchased in past year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                            • Store-types frequented
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 65: Home or electronic stores visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 66: Online stores visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                            • Middles spending less on books and educational materials
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 67: Spending on books/educational materials compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                            • Middles spending more on products to improve health
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 68: Spending on foods or beverages specifically purchased to improve physical health compared to last year, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                            • Middle class spending more at mass merchandisers
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 69: Spending more at selected large retailers visited in past two years, by class segment, October 2009
                                                                                                                                                          • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                            Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                            • Apple, Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • Banana Republic
                                                                                                                                                            • Bank of America Corporation
                                                                                                                                                            • Barnes & Noble, Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • Burger King Corporation
                                                                                                                                                            • Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Consumer Electronics Association
                                                                                                                                                            • Domino's Pizza LLB
                                                                                                                                                            • Facebook, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Google, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Greenfield Online
                                                                                                                                                            • Hasbro Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • Home Depot (USA)
                                                                                                                                                            • J C Penney Company, Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • Jamba Juice Company
                                                                                                                                                            • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Macy's, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • McDonald's Corporation
                                                                                                                                                            • Microsoft USA
                                                                                                                                                            • National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
                                                                                                                                                            • National Association of Realtors (NAR)
                                                                                                                                                            • National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR)
                                                                                                                                                            • National Restaurant Association (NRA)
                                                                                                                                                            • National Retail Federation (NRF)
                                                                                                                                                            • Netflix, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Panera Bread Company
                                                                                                                                                            • Papa John's International, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Starbucks Corporation
                                                                                                                                                            • Trader Joe's Company Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
                                                                                                                                                            • Volkswagen of America, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                            • Walmart Stores (USA)
                                                                                                                                                            • Whataburger Restaurants LP
                                                                                                                                                            • Whole Foods Market Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • Yahoo! Inc
                                                                                                                                                            • YMCA of the USA
                                                                                                                                                            • YouTube, Inc.

                                                                                                                                                            The American Middle Class - US - December 2009

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