The Baby Boomer Consumer

The older cohort is consuming notably less than the general population across nearly every major category, according to Morning Consult Audience data
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April 03, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • A deep dive into hundreds of thousands of survey responses reveals that baby boomers are doing well financially, but consuming notably less than the general population in nearly every major consumption category.

  • However, they are superusers of cable news and have been joining their younger counterparts on two social media platforms, Instagram and TikTok, in larger numbers in recent years.

  • Boomers also rate the overall status of their health and finances similarly to that of the average U.S. adult, indicating that they are maintaining a positive outlook even as they age. 

Gen Z is online. Millennials are anxious. Gen X is forgettable. Modern market research has a penchant for grouping consumers under broad (and often less-than-favorable) archetypes. Little attention has been paid, however, to the oldest among us: Baby boomers. 

But Morning Consult’s Audience data, which draws on millions of survey interviews about demographics, psychographics, and user habits collected daily in more than 40 countries, suggests that they’re likely OK with this.

We zeroed in on domestic data for the purposes of this memo, and found that boomers have checked out of many key consumption behaviors relative to all U.S. adults — despite having more available funds. 

Financially and physically, boomers are fairly healthy 

Born between 1946 and 1965, boomers are more likely to make at least $50,000 per year than all U.S. adults. They’re also more likely to have investments worth $500,000 or more.  

These differences might seem small to those unfamiliar with survey research, but our large sample size — 395,656 responses gathered between April 2023 and April 2024 — means the margin of error is +/- 0.2 percentage points.

Baby Boomer Income and Investments

Share who said they have the following household income and investments:
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Morning Consult Audience gathered 395,656 survey responses April 1, 2023 - April 1, 2024, with a margin of error of +/- 0.2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Amount unknown/no opinion responses not shown.

In terms of employment, roughly two-thirds (63%) of boomers are retired. Among those who are still working, 64% do so in a full-time capacity, while 36% work part-time. 

Boomers are more likely to be divorced (19% vs. 12%), married (51% vs. 40%) or widowed (11% vs. 5%) than the general population, which shakes out considering their life stage. Seventy-two percent own homes, but just 4% of boomers have child(ren) in their household today. 

Without the time burden of childcare, boomers seem to be embracing wellness: They report exercising at rates nearly equal to that of the average adult, and they’re just as likely to say they are in “very good” health. And these relatively healthy habits extend into their food and beverage choices as well. 

Compared to all U.S. adults, the oldest generation over-indexes on cooking at home and under-indexes on every type of alcohol consumption. This is tough news for the adult beverage industry, which is already grappling with declining interest in drinking among young people.

Baby Boomer Food and Beverage Habits

Share who said they do or use the following:
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Morning Consult Audience gathered 395,656 survey responses April 1, 2023 - April 1, 2024, with a margin of error of +/- 0.2 percentage points.

While boomers are still less likely to buy groceries online than all U.S. adults, the offering has been steadily attracting older users since Morning Consult began tracking it three years ago. Forty-three percent of boomers reported making an online grocery purchase in March 2024 — that’s a much larger share than other digital-first food behaviors like online restaurant reservations or meal delivery services garnered. 

But lots of boomer consumption has slowed

Despite their apparent emphasis on health and abundance of time, boomers are partaking in most leisure activities less frequently than the average adult, including staying in hotels, hosting parties, going to concerts or movies, shopping online, attending sporting events and playing console or computer games. 

This pattern holds true on the media front as well: Boomers are significantly less likely than the general population to use all 15 social platforms that Morning Consult tracks. However, these usage differentials are smallest for Yelp (-2 percentage points), Facebook (-3 percentage points) and LinkedIn (-7 percentage points). 

That said, Instagram and TikTok appear to be notching rare wins with the mostly-analog cohort as of late. Despite often being the subject of users’ ire on those apps, the share of boomers who reported using each has been growing notably since the pandemic. Meanwhile, trendlines for every other tested platform have remained flat over the same period.

Baby Boomer Social Media Habits

Share who said they use the following platforms:
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Morning Consult Audience gathered 2,472,212 survey responses January 1, 2020 - April 1, 2024, with a margin of error of +/- 0.1 percentage points.

More than 1 in 3 (36%) boomers are now on Instagram, and 1 in 5 (20%) are on TikTok. In January 2020, those figures were at 27% and 3%, respectively. Perhaps as a result of this usage surge, a class of boomer influencers has emerged in recent months, and many brands have seen solid returns from working with them.

Still, the share of boomers who use Instagram and TikTok pales in comparison to the share who watch cable news, the lone media channel where older audiences reliably outpace younger ones.

Baby Boomer News Consumption

Share who said they use the following news outlets:
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Morning Consult Audience gathered 395,656 survey responses April 1, 2023 - April 1, 2024, with a margin of error of +/- 0.2 percentage points.

Roughly 3 in 4 boomers engage with the three major broadcast networks, and nearly half do the same with Fox News Channel and CNN. Their usage of legacy print outlets like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, however, is far less prolific. This presents an additional challenge for such brands who, like those in the alcohol industry, have struggled to attract and retain young audiences. 

Beyond news, Boomers also tune into the MLB, PGA, NFL and HGTV on television at higher rates than the average U.S. adult. At the same time, they’re still very much streaming laggards: Boomers’ use of nine tested streaming services continues to severely under-index that of the general population, though gaps are most minor for Peacock (-8 percentage points) and Apple TV+ (-9 percentage points). 

Boomer psychographics 

Morning Consult’s Audience data shows that boomers’ psychographic drivers are fairly typical of what one might expect. They’re more likely to prefer classic styles over trendy ones and time-tested, reliable products over fancy, new offerings. They also value maintaining traditions and sticking to habits more than being impulsive or adventurous. 

So, while it’s unlikely that we’ll see many older folks actually participating in viral trends, their life experiences and tastes certainly inform them. From coastal grandmothers to eclectic grandpas, boomers, knowingly or not, serve as a constant source of aesthetic fodder for their younger counterparts — and the brands that want to reach them. 

This memo utilizes data from Morning Consult Audience, our new product that makes it easy to explore and build thousands of custom audience profiles to better understand your target customers. To learn more about Morning Consult Audience, request a demo here.

A headshot photograph of Ellyn Briggs
Ellyn Briggs
Brands Analyst

Ellyn Briggs is a brands analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises brand and marketing leaders on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Ellyn worked as a market researcher and brand strategist in both agency and in-house settings. She graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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