What you need to know

Consumer spending is a primary driver of economic growth, so consumer optimism about the economy in general is a concern for all marketers. The degree of confidence that consumers exhibit relies on a number of things – particularly things that hit close to home, such as home prices and the price of gasoline. However, there are some very interesting differences between demographic groups in these influences on optimism that impacts purchase decisions, and these are discussed in this report.

Recent economic data are showing that the consumer may be willing to loosen up their purse strings and spend a little. However, the data collected for Mintel’s survey show that indications are mixed, and that consumers are optimistic, but very cautiously so. This report also looks at the factors that impact the level of consumers’ concerns both about the economy and about their own household financial situation. These factors can be important in the messaging that marketers rely on to reach out to these consumers, as well as the types of products that fit well within their financial priorities and their worldview.

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Consumers and the Economic Outlook, US, February 2013.

Data sources

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through GMI to explore consumer attitudes and behaviors toward/with their own finances as well as the overall economy. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in December 2013among a sample of 2,000 adults aged 18+ with access to the internet.

Mintel selects survey respondents by gender, age, household income, and region so that they are proportionally representative of the US adult population using the internet. Mintel also slightly over-samples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results and to allow for more precise parameter estimates from our reported findings. Please note that Mintel surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in the survey results.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (white, black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Abbreviations and terms


BRIC Brazil, Russia, India, China
CPI Consumer Price Index
DPI Disposable Personal Income
DSR Debt Service Ratio
FOR Financial Obligations Ratio
GDP Gross Domestic Product
PCE Personal Consumption Expenditures
RPI Real Personal Income


Consumer Price Index According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI is “"a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a basket of consumer goods and services.”
Debt Service Ratio As defined by the Federal Reserve, “The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.”
Disposable Personal Income Total income after taxes are paid
Gross Domestic Product The value of goods and services produced within a country, measured over a specific period of time (such as quarterly or annually)
Financial Obligations Ratio As defined by the Federal Reserve, “the financial obligations ratio (FOR) adds automobile lease payments, rental payments on tenant-occupied property, homeowners' insurance, and property tax payments to the debt service ratio.”
Mass Affluent For the purposes of this report, mass affluents are defined as households with more than $100,000 in investable assets
Personal Consumption Expenditures According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) is the primary measure of consumer spending on goods and services in the U.S. economy. It shows how much of the income earned by households is being spent on current consumption as opposed to how much is being saved for future consumption.
Real Personal Income Total income adjusted for inflation

Generations, if discussed within this report, are defined as:

World War II/ Swing generations Members of the WWII generation were born in 1932 or before and are aged 82 or older in 2014. Members of the Swing Generation were born from 1933-1945 and are aged 69-81 in 2014.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2014, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2014, Gen Xers are between the ages of 38 and 49.
Millennials* Born between 1977 and 1994, Millennials are aged 20 to 37 in 2014.
iGeneration Born between 1995 and 2007, members of iGen are aged 7 to 19 in 2014
Emerging generation The newest generation began in 2008 as the annual number of births declined sharply with the recession. In 2014 members of this as-yet-unnamed generation are under age 7.

* also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

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