Fondly known as the land of opportunity, America’s fabric is a complicated weave of varying identities, aspirations and lifestyles and, despite rising income disparity, new Mintel research reveals that half (49%) of all Americans consider themselves “middle class.” Regardless of the perception that their lifestyles are average, it appears that the quintessential American Dream has left many consumers wanting more. When considering some of the more traditional middle class values only one third (32%) of consumers say they are satisfied with their personal financial situation, just one quarter (25%) find their work personally fulfilling, and a mere one in 10 (11%) believe their standard of living exceeds their expectations.
When separating consumers by socioeconomic status*, it becomes clear that the “average Joe” struggles with more than just finances. Those that fall into the middle class or below are less likely to find personal fulfilment with their work (15% low/27% middle vs 31% high) and more likely to feel they can’t get ahead financially (22% low/15% middle vs 6% high). Regardless of socioeconomic standing, it appears the majority of consumers do not see eye to eye as less than one in five (18%) think their values are shared with most Americans.
After a divisive 2016 presidential election and the never-ending news cycle of today, many Americans are left a little shaken as their top concern is the future of the US economy (86%). Overall, concerns about the state of the nation are top of mind for most, from the possibility of tax increases (79%) and the outsourcing of jobs overseas (68%) to immigration (60%). However, Mintel research shows that current concerns mirror those of Americans five years ago, indicating that there hasn’t been a dramatic shift in concerns for the country since 2011**.
Despite the fact that seven in 10 (71%) Americans are concerned with maintaining their current standard of living, perceptions of financial health remained virtually unchanged 2016-17. More than three quarters of Americans say that their current financial situation is “healthy” or “okay” (78%), indicating that most Americans are able to pay their bills on time and have money left over at the end of the month.
“The majority of Americans say their personal financial situations are healthy and stable in 2017, but it appears that many are left wanting more as a large number of consumers are dissatisfied with their lot in life. Despite positive economic indicators, only a small portion say their standard of living exceeds their expectations. This suggests that Americans, including the full half of the country that self-identifies as ‘middle class,’ expect more than the ability to make ends meet; they are looking for more opportunities, work that is personally fulfilling and a community with shared values,” said Dana Macke, Senior Lifestyles and Leisure Analyst at Mintel.
Overall, US consumer expenditures in 2016 increased 3.3% over the previous year, with 2-6% growth in nearly all of the individual sectors included in Mintel reporting. By 2021, it is projected that Americans’ spending will increase 18%.
Mintel predicts that the alcoholic drinks in- and out-of-home and the vacations and tourism categories are the three most robust areas for growth over the next five years. However, not all categories will fare as well, with non-alcoholic drinks, clothing, footwear and accessories, and household care expected to encounter challenges ahead.
Mintel’s annual American Lifestyles report tracks spending across 18 major consumer markets, revealing the categories that present areas of opportunity, disruption and innovation in the years ahead. Highlights from the 2017 report include: