Despite a recent slump in the markets, the U.S. economy is still putting up strong numbers. Unemployment is at its lowest point since the 1960s, and the U.S. manufacturing sector is thriving.
Looking beyond these big picture gains, many communities in the United States are struggling. Check cashing stores outnumber McDonald’s locations, the opioid epidemic rages on, and tens of millions are living in poverty around the country. It’s becoming more clear that the recovery from the financial crisis has been highly uneven.
The Data Behind Distress
To understand the disconnect between struggling counties and a high-flying national economy, researchers at the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) created the Distressed Communities Index:
To calculate the “health” of communities around the country, the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) looked at everything from vacancy rates to median income ratios. When visualized, a picture emerges of an America divided into superstar regions and broad expanses of struggling communities.
Distressed and prosperous ZIP codes […] represent two almost diametrically opposed experiences of living in the United States.
– Distressed Communities Index Report (2018)
When communities are divided into quintiles, stark patterns emerge. In the most distressed zip codes, over 40% of “prime-age” adults are unemployed, one-in-five adults did not graduate high school, and the housing vacancy rate is nearly double the U.S. average.
As well, deaths related to substance abuse and mental illness are 64% higher in distressed communities.
Struggling States and Cities
The DCI data reveals that those living in the lower half of the United States are more likely to call a distressed community home. In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia, one-third or more of the population resides in the bottom quintile of zip codes.
On the flip side, in Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Utah well over 40% of the population live in prosperous zip codes.
Zooming in beyond the state-level, a geographical trend becomes clear: many of the struggling communities in the index are classified as rural. Between 2007 and 2016, nearly a third of all rural zip codes were considered “downwardly mobile”, compared to only 16% of those in urban areas.
Though rural zip codes tend to fare worse than their more urban counterparts, there are exceptions to that trend. One example is Bakersfield, California, where almost half of the city’s population lives in a distressed community.
At Risk: The Geography of America’s Senior Population
The U.S. senior population is much more vulnerable to COVID-19. Which states and cities have the most people in this at-risk age group?
At Risk: The U.S. Senior Population
The U.S. now has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, and modelling predicts that the country could see about 100,000 to 200,000 total deaths. Unfortunately, adults aged 65 or older—about 16% of the U.S. population—are at much higher risk of both severe illness and death.
Today’s chart uses U.S. Census Bureau data to map the percentage of the population that is 65 years or older by state. It also outlines the urban areas that are most heavily skewed towards this older age group.
Proportion of Seniors by State
Below is the full breakdown of the U.S. senior population by state, using the latest available data from 2018.
Maine tops the list with 20.6% of its population comprising adults age 65 or older. At the other end of the scale, Utah’s seniors make up only 11.1% of its population.
|Rank||State||65+, % of Population||65+, Total Population|
Notably, Florida has the second highest percentage and number of seniors nationwide. Its governor just announced the state’s stay-at-home order on April 1st, after taking criticism for refusing to do so earlier.
New York, the current global hot spot of COVID-19, is close to the national average with 16.4% of its population aged 65 or older. However, with over 3.2 million seniors, the sheer volume of individuals needing hospitalization has already put a strain on the state’s healthcare system. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state will run out of its current supply of ventilators in less than a week.
The Most Vulnerable Urban Areas
On a local level, which places have the highest proportion of seniors? Based on all urban areas* with a population of 250,000 or more, here’s how the top 50 looks:
|Rank||Urban Area||65+, % of Population||65+, Total Population|
|1||Bonita Springs, FL||38.2%||135,286|
|3||Barnstable Town, MA||29.4%||74,614|
|4||Palm Coast–Daytona Beach–Port Orange, FL||28.3%||110,355|
|5||Myrtle Beach–Socastee, SC–NC||27.3%||74,783|
|6||Cape Coral, FL||27.0%||175,483|
|7||Indio–Cathedral City, CA||26.0%||95,054|
|8||Port St. Lucie, FL||25.6%||110,883|
|9||Palm Bay–Melbourne, FL||22.9%||114,347|
|15||Mission Viejo–Lake Forest–San Clemente, CA||19.0%||115,891|
|16||Tampa–St. Petersburg, FL||18.9%||516,269|
|25||Urban Honolulu, HI||17.7%||148,045|
|27||New Haven, CT||17.6%||97,888|
|34||Santa Rosa, CA||17.1%||55,094|
|49||St. Louis, MO–IL||16.2%||347,537|
*Urban areas consist of a downtown core and adjacent territories
With 6 areas in the top 10, Florida is quite vulnerable at the local level as well. Other states with multiple areas on the list include Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The Senior Population of Current U.S. Hotspots
To determine the vulnerability of current COVID-19 hotspots, we compared U.S. counties with a high number of cases per capita against their percentage of seniors.
Counties at the bottom left have low readings on both metrics. Conversely, counties in the top right have a dangerous combination: a high concentration of cases and vulnerable seniors.
Multiple counties in New York occupy the top right quadrant, with Yonkers being the worst off. Los Angeles county, which has a similar population to all counties in New York City, has fewer cases and a smaller proportion of seniors.
To date, outbreaks have been mostly focused in urban areas where populations tend to be younger. However, as COVID-19 begins infiltrating rural areas, healthcare systems will need to contend with both older age groups and fewer resources.
The Most Loved Brands, by Generation
Can a brand transcend time and be all things to all people? This graphic seeks to find out by visualizing the most loved brands by generation.
The Most Beloved Brands, by Generation
When it comes to buying into brands, consumers are spoiled for choice.
The vast amount of options available makes it increasingly difficult for brands to build meaningful emotional connections with them—but for the brands that do, the payoff can be huge.
Today’s graphic pulls data from MBLM’s 2020 Brand Intimacy Report and visualizes the top 10 brands that different generations connect with the most.
Can Emotion Be Measured?
Brands that tap into consumers’ emotions can establish higher levels of trust. This in turn creates a culture of loyalty that could ensure a unique standing in the market and long-term growth.
In fact, intimate brands that have a strong emotional bond with their consumers tend to outperform top companies listed on the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 in both revenue and profit. To measure how brands emotionally connect with consumers, MBLM looked at four key factors:
- Users: The existing relationship between a brand and a consumer
- Emotional Connection: The degree of positive feelings the user has for a brand, and the extent to which their personal values align with the brand’s values
- Archetype: The six markers that are present among intimate brands, which include fulfillment, identity, enhancement, ritual, nostalgia, and indulgence
- Stage: The degree of intensity in the relationship across three phases: sharing, bonding, and fusing
- Intimacy Score: Based on these four components, a score is assigned, ranging from 0-100
The total score also reveals which brands rank the highest across different age groups. While there are some commonalities across each generation, can brands be all things to all people?
The Chosen One
There are very few brands that have the luxury of retaining loyal customers from different age brackets. Amazon, however, manages to transcend age. The retail giant appears in the top five for Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers—with the latter awarding the brand their #1 spot.
Every generation named “enhancement” as Amazon’s defining trait, meaning their lives have improved as a result of the relationship. The “ritual” trait also scored high, with users claiming the brand has become ingrained into their daily behavior.
Ranked: Top Brands by Generation
Gen Z and Millennials (18-34)
Sony-owned PlayStation holds the title for the most intimate brand among Millennials, climbing up from the 8th spot in 2019. Impressively, more than 50% of Millennials have an emotional connection to the brand, with men having a particularly strong affinity for it.
Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the gaming brand’s success has been fueled by the increasing popularity of multiplayer and professional gaming, as well as new product innovation—with five of the ten best selling consoles owned by PlayStation.
|#1||PlayStation||78.3||Media and Entertainment|
|#4||Disney||67.8||Media and Entertainment|
|#8||YouTube||63.0||Media and Entertainment|
|#9||Xbox||59.8||Media and Entertainment|
|#10||Nintendo||56.8||Media and Entertainment|
Interestingly, when Gen Z (18-24) are singled out, Microsoft-owned Xbox ranks as #1, increasing its score to 73.5 in 2020 from 49.7 in 2018.
Gen X (35-54)
As the generational middle child, Gen X did not grow up with the same access to technology. However, their tech adoption is almost on par with Millennials, with similar adoption rates across tablet and smartphone ownership.
It is no surprise therefore, that Apple has captured the hearts of this generation, sitting proudly in first place. When the iPhone launched in 2007, this group was between 22-41 years old, so they have likely been loyal followers of the tech brand since its earlier days.
|#3||Netlix||66.1||Media and Entertainment|
|#5||Disney||65.0||Media and Entertainment|
|#8||Xbox||57.0||Media and Entertainment|
While this generation has no qualms about shopping online, 72% of them shop in brick and mortar stores and are satisfied with doing so—which may be part of the reason why retail giant Walmart joins Amazon in the top 10.
Baby Boomers (55-64)
Controlling almost 70% of disposable income in the U.S., Baby Boomers are arguably the most influential of all consumer groups.
While they feel the most emotionally connected to Amazon, it’s also true that Apple was another tech brand to win the affection of this age group.
|#6||Hershey’s||54.8||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#8||Pillsbury||51.8||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#9||Kellogg’s||50.0||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#10||Pepsi||50.0||Consumer Packaged Goods|
This generation dominates almost 50% of consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales in the U.S.—which likely explains why the rest of their top brands are more traditional household names, such as Macy’s, Hershey’s, and Kellogg’s.
It is also clear from the ranking that this group values brands with nostalgic qualities, as well as the ability to provide them with moments of indulgence.
The Changing Brand Landscape
The brand and consumer relationship has shifted with the ages, but each generation’s unique value system has remained the most important piece of the puzzle.
It is worth noting that none of the Baby Boomer’s favorite brands appear in the ranking for those aged 18-24 (Gen Z). Are the preferences of younger generations signalling a cultural shift, in which we place more value on distraction rather than satisfaction?
Note: The 2020 Brand Intimacy Report covers an age range of 18-64. The way that the ranking is structured makes it difficult to reflect conventional demographic groups (e.g. Gen Z, the Silent Generation etc.)
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