I struggled coming up with something to write this week. 

I thought about ranting about the appalling way women are treated in this country. But I just wrote about that a few weeks ago. And a few months before that. At some point, a dead horse is beaten beyond recognition.

Besides, I’m not telling the ladies among you anything you don’t already know in spades. 

The guys don’t seem to care, or things would change. In fact, of all the controversial topics I cover here, nothing is guaranteed to inspire angry replies – from aggrieved, older white men – like the topic of gender inequality, or “male-bashing,” as they like to call it. One lovely gentleman accused me of only doing it to “get laid.” He’s not allowed to read this anymore. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

I thought of writing about the compounding effects of COVID, inflation, gas prices, and the stock market on the ever-widening wealth gap in America. You can see it in neon lights in recent consumer spending figures. The haves keep buying like drunken sailors, thanks to their stockpile of household savings and rising white collar wages. The have-nots are migrating to dollar stores and private label brands – or otherwise living with less.

If you’re a retailer, the net outcome is still in the black. So, you may not care. 

Did you know only 10% of U.S. households make over $200,000 a year? Given the target audience of this email, I’m betting the vast majority of you fall in the upper decile. That makes you a minority, statistically speaking, smaller even than the 13.7% of Americans who live in poverty. 

You’ve probably saved for your kids to go to college, so their future odds are good, too. In the next decade, the average cost for one year of college tuition, room, and board will be higher than the median household income. And the wheels of financial disparity roll on. 

Meanwhile, a generation of lesser-privileged kids fell even further behind academically during COVID, thanks to shoddy home internet and parents (or parent) who were too busy working one or more frontline jobs to help them with their schoolwork. Why worry about the cost of tuition, when college is probably a pipe dream anyway?

Like I said, I couldn’t decide what to muse about this week. 

So, I wrote about empathy.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

In a faint sign of progress, spending for Mother’s Day should be up considerably this year. More than a third of U.S. adults planned to spend over $50 on gifts for mom in 2022, up from 28% in 2020 and 25% in 2019. Men expected to spend more – as they always do (and should). Flowers are the number one choice (26%) among gift-givers, followed by “Other” (24%), and a meal out (18%). Twelve percent of people are going the lazy route and doing gift cards. But, hey, it’s better than just sending a regular old greeting card. Just do something. 

The IRS hit Americans’ wallets harder this tax season. The bad news is that only 51% of U.S. adults received a tax refund this year, down from 58% in 2021. The even worse news is 33% owed money, up from 28% last year. Forty-one percent of people were surprised by their tax payments. That certainly won’t help an already-cash-strapped populace. The shifts were even worse among parents, versus non-parents, partly attributable to overpayments of the Child Tax Credit last year. Among the tax winners, the largest group (28%) will use it to pay down debt, exactly the same percentage we saw in 2021. The number of respondents who said they will use their refund for home improvement fell most dramatically, while those who said they’ll use it for vacations and shopping showed small gains.    

People are banking on student loan forgiveness to stay intact. Perhaps offsetting those unexpected tax bills, 61% of Americans with student debt are expecting to spend that money elsewhere, now that repayment requirements have been extended to at least August. Now, only 30% of people are very concerned about repaying their loans, down from 36% in January. Maybe a lot of people are betting the Biden administration will forgive their loans altogether. Good luck. 

Welcome to the new, new normal. All of our COVID tracking metrics have been remarkably steady for over six weeks – a veritable eternity in the pandemic era, when things typically rise and fall like a sailboat on rough seas. Comfort doing everything from dining out to working to shopping in stores to going to the movies, concerts, and other public events hasn’t budged more than a point or two since mid-March. It’s possible these numbers just reflect a counterbalance between rising COVID cases in the majority of U.S. states and improving weather. Or maybe, like I told you last week, some level of COVID caution is simply here to stay for some people. We may have to just get used to it. 

Twitter zealots are freaking out. Upon news of Elon Musk’s impending acquisition, nearly half of daily Tweeters are concerned about the impact the new regime will have on content moderation on the platform. The numbers are even higher among less-than-daily users, which could drive throngs of people away. Women and non-heterosexual Americans are far more worried than average – and you can predict how the numbers break by party ID. We just can’t help but weaponize everything today. Sigh.  

Gen Z’s are pale, freckle-less wimps – who won’t get skin cancer. Kids today will never know the joys of laying out all day on an asphalt driveway, dousing themselves in baby oil, until they turn crispy, golden brown. What kind of childhood can you really have if you’ve never lathered yourself in aloe vera gel and stuck to the sheets of your waterbed all night, while a box fan in the window gave you dire relief from third-degree sunburn all over your body? Beats me. All I know is that Gen Z’s will have a giant void in their lives because almost half of them wear SPF products – every freaking week. I guess they’ll live longer, so there’s that.       

Two more great studies from the CivicScientists:

  • Supply chain issues had an impact on Wayfair’s Way Day;
  • Kentucky Derby lovers shop local, drink wine, and other things

The top questions this week:

Answer Key: Self-teach; Nope; As cold as possible; All fish tacos are good fish tacos; For Pennsylvania? Zero. But Pittsburgh, yes; Hell yeah. 

And one more thing. We’ve been nominated as one of the most innovative companies in the market research industry and the selections are based on – guess what – a quick survey. I would be much obliged if you took a moment to vote for CivicScience by clicking here. Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you hold us in high regard. Much appreciated. 

Hoping you’re well.


Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up hereIf you are new to this list, check out our Top Ten to get caught up.