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Profiling America's Affluent Women

by Raksha Arora and Lydia Saad

Somewhere between superwomen and soccer moms

Over the last few decades, there has been a rapid rise of affluence in America. According to 2003 Census figures, one in every four households in the country is now "mass affluent," -- defined as people living in households with annual incomes of $75,000 and higher -- compared with only about one in seven in 1980. This article is the third in a series examining this demographic segment and focuses on mass affluent women.

Women control about $5 trillion in U.S. business and consumer spending, and influence some 80% of all such spending nationally, according to some estimates. Mass affluent women (those living in households earning $75,000 or more annually) proportionally have more discretionary income than non-affluent women do, but they differ in other ways as well. Three years' worth of aggregated Gallup Poll data* provide a picture of who these affluent women are and what kind of lives they lead.

Affluent Women Juggle Responsibilities

When thinking of mass affluent women, forget dated stereotypes of the "idle rich." Even the archetype symbolized by the television character Murphy Brown -- who was originally a single career woman with no children -- represents just 7% of all affluent women. Most affluent women -- 75% -- juggle a number of responsibilities, whether they be work and marriage; marriage and children (under age 18); children and work; or work, marriage, and children. In contrast, only 43% of non-affluent women play multiple roles.

Yet although affluent women are more likely than non-affluent women to be employed, they don't appear much different when it comes to their preferences for balancing work and family. Given the choice to either have a career or stay at home and look after the family, 50% of affluent women say they would choose a career and 45% would choose to be a homemaker -- roughly the same proportions found among non-affluent women.

Income Doesn't Neutralize Stress

But even though affluent women are more likely than non-affluent women to juggle work, marriage, and family, affluent women are no more likely than non-affluent women to say they are frequently stressed. However, affluent women are, as is the case for women in general, stressed more often than affluent men -- 42% compared with 32%.

. . Yet They're Happy and Healthy

Higher discretionary incomes just might buy affluent women a little happiness. These women experience higher levels of subjective wellbeing than either affluent men or non-affluent women. Nearly two-thirds of affluent women (66%) describe themselves as "very happy," compared with 57% of affluent men and 48% of non-affluent women.

Self-reported physical and mental health is also quite high among affluent women -- similar to affluent men, but much better than non-affluent women. The average self-reported weight for affluent women is approximately 10 pounds lighter than that of non-affluent women -- interestingly, though, the two groups are as likely to say they are overweight. Affluent women are much more physically active than are non-affluent women, though they are less active than affluent men. Half of affluent women (52%) can be identified as moderately or highly active according to Gallup's exercise index, compared with 40% of non-affluent women.

So, when thinking of affluent women, think active and healthy. They lead relatively full lives, and have the physical wellbeing to enjoy it.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 3,029 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 2001, May 2002, and May 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.


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