Liz is an American consumer of the millennial generation. A college graduate, employed at the university she attended, she is considered lucky to have a job because so many in her demographic group do not. Government budget cuts resulted in a five percent income cut for her. She wants to buy a new laptop but finds that her disposable income is going toward weddings. While it’s believed that millennials are postponing marriage, Liz’s friends are not. So she spends and spends on outfits, gifts and more. At some level she believes that she deserves more in life but finds that her economic reality means she must be frugal, carefully considering every purchase from restaurant meals to entertainment to clothing and, that laptop. She shops online but will quickly click away from websites that are poorly designed or difficult to navigate. She recently re-evaluated her Facebook presence after realizing that her Facebook friends weren’t necessarily her real friends.
Liz is among 11 “families” in The American Consumer Project, a year-long look at changing American demographics, undertaken by AdAge. It uses data from Esri which classifies the U.S.into 65 marketing segments, and Patchwork Nation which classifies the country into 12 different types of counties. Based on these frameworks, AdAge selected 11 representative counties, such as Champaign, Illinois where Liz lives, Clark, Nevada where Chris, a divorced father of a 12 year-old daughter lives and shops, and Hamden, Massachusetts where Andrew, a Latino millennial lives with his slightly older, white, Jewish girlfriend. Every adjective in those descriptions means something in marketing. The goal of the project is to document the impact of demographic and economic change on consumer behavior. And it turns out that 10 of the 25 highest-earning counties in the U.S. are the ones surrounding Washington D.C.