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How Media Consumption Evolved Throughout COVID-19

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Knight Foundation Media Consumption

How Media Consumption Evolved Throughout COVID-19

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Media consumption spiked in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak as Americans actively sought information and entertainment while at home. Whether this changed over the course of 2020 remains unclear, however.

To dive deeper into the issue, this infographic explores each generation’s shifts in media consumption habits as the pandemic wore on.

Further below, we’ll also examine which media sources Americans deemed to be the most trustworthy, and why consumption habits may have changed for good.

Changes in American Media Consumption, by Generation

The data in this infographic comes from two surveys conducted by Global Web Index (GWI). The first was completed in April 2020 (N=2,337) and asked participants a series of questions regarding media consumption during COVID-19.

To see how consumption had changed by the end of the year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned GWI to complete a follow-up survey in December 2020 (N=2,014). The following tables provide a summary of the results.

Gen Z

Unsurprisingly, a significant percentage of Gen Z reported an increase in digital media consumption in April 2020 in comparison to pre-pandemic habits. This bump was driven by higher use of online videos, video games, and online TV/streaming films.

By December 2020, these media categories became even more popular with this cohort. Most notably, podcasts saw the highest increase, jumping almost 15% by the end of the year.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts10.9%25.8%+14.9%
Video Games29.9%42.1%+12.2%
Music Streaming28.0%34.6%+6.6%
Broadcast TV24.1%17.0%-7.1%
Online TV / streaming films36.8%39%+2.2%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)51.4%59.1%+7.7%
Livestreams17.4%19.5%+2.1%
Books / literature17.1%20.1%+3.0%
Online Press19.9%17.0%-2.9%
Physical Press8.9%6.3%-2.6%
Radio17.8%10.7%-7.1%
None9.0%13.8%+4.8%

The popularity of traditional outlets like broadcast TV and radio declined from their April 2020 highs, though they are still up relative to pre-pandemic levels for Gen Z survey respondents.

Millennials

Results from the December 2020 survey show that Millennials trimmed their media consumption from earlier in the year. This was most apparent in news outlets (online and physical press), which saw double digit declines in popularity relative to April.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts20.9%26.3%+5.4%
Video Games32.1%29.6%-2.5%
Music Streaming37.4%30.2%-7.2%
Broadcast TV35.7%24.6%-11.1
Online TV / streaming films42.2%39.2%-3.0
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)44.9%42.5%-2.4%
Livestreams32.9%15.6%-17.3%
Books / literature20.4%24%+3.6%
Online Press37.0%16.5%-20.5%
Physical Press20.3%8.0%-12.3%
Radio27.2%17.9%-9.3%
None9.1%20.3%+11.2%

Books and podcasts were the only two categories to capture more interest from Millennials over the time period. It’s also worth noting that the percentage of respondents who said “none” for media consumption rose to 20.3%, up significantly from 9.1% in April.

Possible factors for the increase in “none” responses include easing government restrictions and a return to more normal work schedules.

Gen X

The media consumption habits of Gen X developed similarly to Millennials over the year.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts11.1%13.3%+2.2%
Video Games20.4%16.8%-3.6%
Music Streaming29.6%21.7%-7.9%
Broadcast TV46.4%29.8%-16.6%
Online TV / streaming films40.8%29.9%-10.9%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)38.5%23.6%-14.9%
Livestreams23.4%8.4%-15.0%
Books / literature22.2%22.6%+0.4%
Online Press32.7%14.3%-18.4%
Physical Press7.6%4.6%-3.0%
Radio23.5%16.6%-6.9%
None16.0%28.9%+12.9%

Broadcast TV and online press saw the largest declines over the time period, while once again, podcasts and books were the only two categories to capture more interest relative to April. The percentage of respondents reporting “none” rose to 28.9%—a slightly higher share than that of Millennials.

Boomers

Media consumption trends among Baby Boomers were mixed, with some categories increasing and others decreasing since April. Broadcast TV saw the biggest decline in usage of all media types, but remained the most popular category for this cohort.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts4.4%7.9%+3.5%
Video Games10.5%9.5%-1.0%
Music Streaming13.7%14.4%+0.7%
Broadcast TV42.3%36.7%-5.6%
Online TV / streaming films22.5%22.0%-0.5%
Online videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)11.6%18.2%+6.6%
Livestreams8.8%6.5%-2.3%
Books / literature13.7%17.4%+3.7%
Online Press13.8%11.4%-2.4%
Physical Press7.1%4.6%-2.5%
Radio15.3%15.5%+0.2%
None23.0%31.0%+8.0%

Boomers also had the largest share of “none” respondents in both studies (23.0% in April and 31.0% in December).

Where do Americans Go For Trustworthy News?

To learn more about American media consumption—particularly when it came to staying updated on the pandemic—survey respondents were asked to confirm which of the following sources they found trustworthy.

Knight Foundation Trustworthy Sources

The deviations between each generation don’t appear to be too drastic, but there are some key takeaways from this data.

For starters, Gen Z appears to be more skeptical of mainstream news channels like CNN, with only 28.9% believing them to be trustworthy. This contrasts the most with Gen X, which saw 40.1% of its respondents give news channels the thumbs up.

This story is flipped when we turn to the World Health Organization (WHO). Gen Z demonstrated the highest levels of trust in information published by WHO, at 50.3% of respondents. Only 39.0% of Gen X could say the same.

By far the least trustworthy source was foreign governments’ websites. This category had the lowest average approval rating across the four generations, and scored especially poor with Boomers.

The Lasting Effects of the Pandemic

Habits that were picked up during 2020 are likely to linger, even as life finally returns to normal. To find out what’s changed, respondents were asked which categories of media they expected to continue consuming in elevated amounts.

The chart below shows each generation’s top three responses.

media consumption after COVID

Note that the top three for both Gen Z and Millennials are all digital and online categories (video games can be played offline, but the majority of popular titles are online). This contrasts with the preferences of Gen X and Boomers, who appear to be sticking with more traditional outlets in broadcast TV and books.

With consumption habits of younger and older Americans moving in opposite directions, advertisers and media companies will likely need a clear understanding of their target audiences in order to be successful.

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Demographics

Interactive: How the U.S. Population Has Changed in 10 Years, by State

The U.S. saw 7.4% population growth in the past decade, the lowest it’s been since the 1930s. How does population by state look today?

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U.S. Population Change in the Last Decade, by State

The U.S. is the third most-populated country in the world, behind only two Asian giants of China and India respectively. But within the country, a lot can change in 10 years, and populations are especially mutable in nature.

As people moved in and out of certain areas for both lifestyle and economic reasons, which U.S. state populations fluctuated the most?

Drawing from the latest Census Bureau data, we look at how each state’s resident populations evolved over the past decade. But first, a blast from the past.

Historical Trends: U.S. Population Since the 1930s

Population growth trends in the U.S. have been closely tied to the economic ebbs and flows experienced by the nation. In one stark example, the country’s 10-year population growth rate plummeted to just 7.3% due to the Great Depression.

US Population Growth % Change by Decade

This was later offset by the post-WWII “Baby Boom”, during which birth rates soared once more, bumping up the population 10-year growth rate to 18.5% in the 1950s. The Baby Boomer generation now wields the most influence over the U.S. economy and society thanks to the favorable economic conditions in which they were born.

However, U.S. population growth rates recently hit new lows—the slower pace in the 2010s is rivalling that of the 1930s. According to Brookings, there area few factors at play:

  • Falling fertility rate
  • An increase in deaths (aging population, overdose deaths)
  • Lower immigration rate

With all this in mind, how does the current landscape of the U.S. population by state look?

The Entire U.S. Population by State in 2020

The U.S. experienced 7.4% population growth between 2010-2020, which equates to the addition of 22.7 million people.

An impressive one-tenth of this growth occurred in California, and it remains the most populous state, rising above 39.5 million people in 2020. The SoCal megaregion—Los Angeles and San Diego—alone contributes more than $1.4 trillion to global economic output.

Area2020 Census Resident PopulationNumeric Change (2010-2020)% Change (2010-2020)
Alabama5,024,279244,5435.1%
Alaska733,39123,1603.3%
Arizona7,151,502759,48511.9%
Arkansas3,011,52495,6063.3%
California39,538,2232,284,2676.1%
Colorado5,773,714744,51814.8%
Connecticut3,605,94431,8470.9%
Delaware989,94892,01410.2%
District of Columbia (Territory)689,54587,82214.6%
Florida21,538,1872,736,87714.6%
Georgia10,711,9081,024,25510.6%
Hawaii1,455,27194,9707.0%
Idaho1,839,106271,52417.3%
Illinois12,812,508-18,124-0.1%
Indiana6,785,528301,7264.7%
Iowa3,190,369144,0144.7%
Kansas2,937,88084,7623.0%
Kentucky4,505,836166,4693.8%
Louisiana4,657,757124,3852.7%
Maine1,362,35933,9982.6%
Maryland6,177,224403,6727.0%
Massachusetts7,029,917482,2887.4%
Michigan10,077,331193,6912.0%
Minnesota5,706,494402,5697.6%
Mississippi2,961,279-6,018-0.2%
Missouri6,154,913165,9862.8%
Montana1,084,22594,8109.6%
Nebraska1,961,504135,1637.4%
Nevada3,104,614404,06315.0%
New Hampshire1,377,52961,0594.6%
New Jersey9,288,994497,1005.7%
New Mexico2,117,52258,3432.8%
New York20,201,249823,1474.2%
North Carolina10,439,388903,9059.5%
North Dakota779,094106,50315.8%
Ohio11,799,448262,9442.3%
Oklahoma3,959,353208,0025.5%
Oregon4,237,256406,18210.6%
Pennsylvania13,002,700300,3212.4%
Puerto Rico (Territory)3,285,874-439,915-11.8%
Rhode Island1,097,37944,8124.3%
South Carolina5,118,425493,06110.7%
South Dakota886,66772,4878.9%
Tennessee6,910,840564,7358.9%
Texas29,145,5053,999,94415.9%
Utah3,271,616507,73118.4%
Vermont643,07717,3362.8%
Virginia8,631,393630,3697.9%
Washington7,705,281980,74114.6%
West Virginia1,793,716-59,278-3.2%
Wisconsin5,893,718206,7323.6%
Wyoming576,85113,2252.3%
U.S. Total331,449,28122,703,7437.4%

*Note: U.S. total and 10-year percentage change includes District of Columbia but excludes Puerto Rico

Overall, there’s been a significant shift in population towards the Sun Belt region (stretching from Southeast to Southwest), where 62% of the U.S. now resides. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest gainers and decliners over time.

Gainers: Utah, Texas

Utah saw the quickest population growth rate of 18.4% in the last decade. Drawn in by strong economic prospects, net migration into the state is balancing out a decline in births. What’s interesting is that 80% of Utah’s population is concentrated in the Wasatch Front – a metro area anchored by Salt Lake City and the chain of cities and towns running north and south of Utah’s largest city.

A little further south, Texas swelled by almost 4 million residents in the last 10 years. Much of this growth took place in the “Texas Triangle”, which contains Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. This booming region of the country contributes over $1.2 trillion to global economic output.

Decliners: West Virginia, Puerto Rico

West Virginia lost the most people in a decade, seeing a numeric population decline of 59,278. This may be explained by an aging population—16% of West Virginians are 65 years old and above.

When territories are also taken into account, Puerto Rico saw the biggest percentage decline of 11.8%, or close to 44,000 people over 10 years. Many of them moved into the mainland, and especially into Florida, after two hurricanes hit the island in 2017.

Full Speed Ahead: States Competing On Forward Momentum

By 2025, California will be home to five of the fastest-growing urban U.S. cities. The unstoppable growth of the tech industry in Silicon Valley is partly behind this, as many people flock to the West Coast to fill the shoes of highly skilled jobs required.

But could Silicon Valley one day lose its steam? Current and projected population growth in Texas is bolstering its tech potential too—in fact, it’s been dubbed the next “Silicon Hills”, with many tech companies from SpaceX to Oracle choosing to camp out in Austin instead.

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Demographics

Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Economic Power?

Baby Boomers hold more economic power than Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z together. See how it all breaks down.

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Economic Power?

In our inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI) 2021, we’ve ranked generations on how much power and influence they hold in American society.

And when it comes to money and economic power, our research has concluded that Baby Boomers, those between the ages of 57-75, have more influence than Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z combined.

GenerationEconomic Power Share
Baby Boomers43.4%
Gen X26.1%
Silent17.6%
Millennials9.7%
Gen Z3.3%

These findings may seem intuitive, but what exactly contributes to economic power? To find out, let’s take a closer look at the GPI’s underlying variables.

The Building Blocks of Economic Power

Our starting point was to define the age ranges of each generation:

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these ranges as a framework, we then calculated our four underlying variables of economic power. Here’s what the distribution within each one looked like:

economic power category breakdown

The earnings variable represents the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the U.S., and was the most evenly distributed of the four variables. Gen Z had the lowest median weekly earnings ($614), while Gen X had the highest ($1,103).

Boomers established a clear lead in the second variable, net worth, which represents each generation’s share of overall U.S. wealth. As it turns out, Boomers hold 53% of all wealth in the country—more than all other generations combined.

The third variable captures each generation’s share of billionaire wealth, and was dominated by Boomers and the Silent Gen. We calculated this variable by starting with the top 1,000 billionaires globally, then filtering for Americans only.

The final variable, business leaders, is based on two underlying metrics: the generational share of both S&P 500 CEOs and small business owners. This enabled us to capture data from two sides of the business spectrum to see who holds power there.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

Shifting Dynamics in Economic Power

America’s wealth distribution is not stagnant, meaning the balance of economic power shifts with each passing year. Keeping this in mind, here are two of the most compelling trends that we discovered while analyzing data for the GPI report.

1. Younger Generations Show Sluggish Growth

The following chart illustrates each generation’s share of household wealth over time.

GPI Share of US household wealth

It makes sense that Baby Boomers would hold the most wealth of any generation. They have had more time to accumulate assets, and the population of Boomers is roughly three times higher than that of the Silent Generation.

What’s more interesting, however, is the stark difference in wealth trajectories between Boomers and younger generations.

While Boomers entered the workforce in a prosperous post-WWII era, Millennials and Gen Z have either started their careers in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, or in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To put it in perspective, when Baby Boomers were as old as today’s Millennials in 1989, they held 21.3% of U.S. wealth. That’s more than four times higher than what Millennials hold now.

2. Small Business: The 99.9%

America’s small businesses may not have the same scale as global corporations like Apple or Amazon, but they are an incredibly important part of the U.S. economy.

In fact, small businesses make up 99.9% of all U.S. companies, and employ one-third of the nation’s workforce.

Here is who runs small businesses, from a generational perspective:

GPI Share of Small Business Ownership

The 13% share held by Millennials may not sound too impressive, but it is one of the cohort’s strongest areas for economic power.

Looking forward, it seems entrepreneurship will grow into an area of strength for both Millennials and Gen Z, who are 188% more likely to want to create a side business compared to older generations.

Combine this with the fact that e-commerce adoption has been accelerating even faster than expected due to the pandemic, and it’s easy to see how younger, more tech-savvy generations could quickly expand their influence.

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