The 'typical' American is changing

September 16, 1992|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- The average American woman. The typical American male. The Common Man. The Silent Majority.

America, the land of diversity, is also America, the land of averages. And according to number crunchers, the average American today is a white female in her 30s of European descent. She is married, has children and works full time outside the home, according to statistics compiled from the Census Bureau, national surveys and government agencies.

She is a high school graduate, considers herself a moderate Democrat, owns a home, has two televisions and a videocassette recorder, has credit card debt, drinks low-fat milk and calls herself an environmentalist.

While there are surprising similarities between the typical American today compared to the typical American in 1960, there also are major differences, said Dave Stewart, consumer psychologist at USC.

"While most women still do marry and have children, back then they married at an earlier age and had more children," Mr. Stewart said.

Her working status also is different. In 1960, most women stayed home, he said. In 1960, 22.3 million women were part of the work force, compared with 56.6 million today.

The statistics also show that the median age today is slightly older, he said. In 1960, the average American was 29.5 years old.

The typical American's financial situation has changed greatly. Credit cards and the bills that come with them weren't as commonplace 30 years ago as they are today, Mr. Stewart said.

What hasn't switched is the typical American's political affiliation, he said. The majority of people in 1960 and today still identify themselves as moderate Democrats.

At the same time, people have become more environmentally aware. Environmentalist wasn't in the American vocabulary in the early '60s, Mr. Stewart said.

"Now it's an embarrassment to not show concern for the environment," he said. "People's consciousness has really been raised today on that issue."

But do all these numbers really show the typical American?

"There is greater variation in the population today. The statistics don't show that diversity," Mr. Stewart said. "In fact, I don't think there is a typical American who fits these statistics."

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