Affluents’ Anxieties Differ by Age, Income

February 10, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Financial Services | Household Income | Men | Pharma & Healthcare | Women

Affluent Americans are most worried about the economy, healthcare, and unemployment/jobs, but their levels of concern – about these issues and others – vary widely by age, gender and income, finds a survey by Ipsos Mendelsohn.

The poll, a follow-up to the annual Mendelsohn Affluent Survey, asked 500 people with annual household incomes of 100K+ about 17 current-events topics and found that while the economy is worrisome people of all ages, men and upper-income groups have greater concern over taxes; younger affluents worry more about climate change and education, and lower-income affluents have more anxiety over moral decline.

Economy Most Distressing

“The economy,” by a wide margin, generates the most anxiety among all affluent Americans and was selected by more than 60% of respondents, the survey found. “Healthcare” and “unemployment/jobs” were each selected by slightly more than 30%. The fourth highest concern, “crime and violence,” was selected by one-quarter of the sample.

Looking at the results by gender, both men and women in the survey chose “The economy” as a primary source of their current anxiety, but men said so in numbers exceeding women (62% vs. 59%). Men also opted to rank “unemployment/jobs” their #2 concern, followed by “taxes.”

Women ranked their top three selections differently than men, but in the same order as the general findings. Compared with men, more women readily selected both “healthcare” (37% vs. 28%) and “unemployment/jobs” (33% vs. 31%).

Young Adults Have Different Priorities

When three affluent age groups (ages18-34, ages 35-49, and ages 50+) are examined, more interesting findings emerge, Ipsos Mendelsohn said. Specifically, while the economy remains one of the top three concerns for all three groups, answers from those ages 18-34 show a radically different mindset than the older affluent age groups.


The top three concerns among affluents ages 18-34:

  • Climate change
  • The economy
  • Education

Whereas “climate change” is the choice of almost half of the youngest group (49% among 18-34 year olds), that rate quickly falls to single digits among the next older group (8% of 35-49-year-olds) and within the oldest group (7% of those ages 50+ years). While climate change is the youngest group’s #1 choice, it is only the 11th choice in both of the older groups’ selections.

Looking at how the other top concerns score among those aged 18-34, “healthcare” rates as the youngest cohort’s #4 concern, while “unemployment/jobs” is much further down their list of worries, the survey found. At #7, this issue trails two other concerns in importance among the younger set: Access to credit and threats against the environment.

Top Anxieties Vary by Household Income

Study responses also vary significantly by household income. Among household incomes across three ranges ($100-149K, $150K+, and $200K+), there are discernable differences. First, “taxes” is considered much more of a concern by the two upper-most income groups. It is the third most worrisome topic among those with a household income of $150K or more with about a third (30%) of these respondents selecting it as a primary anxiety. In contrast, only 19% of those making $100-149K, and 23% of the total affluent sample, say “taxes” is a worrisome issue.

On the flip side, the lowest income group find “moral decline” to be much more of an issue than their higher-income counterparts. While 21% of those making between $100-149K think “moral decline” is a problem, only 16% of respondents earning $150K or more find it so, and and only nine percent of those making $200K+ do. The sentiments of the relatively lower income group, however, do not cross over to the younger age cohort, since only 3% of those ages 18-34 feel that “moral decline” is a major concern.

About the survey: The Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Poll was conducted December 29-31, 2008. For the survey, a national sample of 498 adults ages 18 and older with a household income of $100K+ from Ipsos’ US online panel were interviewed online. Weighting and sample balancing were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition tracks with US Census data.

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