Average Joe


Average Joe

The term Average Joe or Average Jane is used in the United States to refer to the average American. Today statistics by the United States Department of Commerce provide information regarding the societal attributes of those who may be referred to as being "average". While some individual attributes are easily identified as being average, such as the median income, other characteristics, such as family arrangements may not be identified as being average. In 2000 for example no single household arrangement constituted more than 30% of total households. Married couples with no children were the most common constituting 28.7% of households. It would nonetheless be inaccurate to state that the average American lives in a childless couple arrangement as 71.3% do not.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0] Other "average" characteristics are easier to identify. In terms of social class, the average American may be described as either being middlecite web|url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0510/p09s01-codc.html|title=Christian Science Monitor on What is Middle Class|accessdate=2006-09-11] or working class.cite book | last = Vanneman | first = Reeve | authorlink = | coauthors = Lynn Weber Cannon | year = 1988 | title = The American Perception of Class
publisher = Temple University Press | location = New York, NY | id = 0877225931
] cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class
publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331
] As social classes lack distinct boundaries the average American may have a status in the area where the lower middle and working class overlap.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
] Overall the average American, age 25 or older, made roughly $32,000 per year,cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/perinc/new03_001.htm|title=US Census Bureau, Personal income for all sexes, races in 2005|accessdate=2006-11-19] does not have a college degree, has been, is, or will be married as well as divorced at least once during his or her lifetime, lives in his or her own home in a suburban setting, and holds a white collar office job.cite web|url=http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf|title=US Census Bureau report on educational attainment in the United States, 2003|accessdate=2006-07-31]

Television characters such as Doug Heffernan from the show "King of Queens" may be referred to as "the average Joe"cite web|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/arts/television/03heff.html?ex=1325480400&en=e11b08c71fe2602d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss|title=New York Times, Doug Heffernan, the average Joe.|accessdate=2007-01-11] Other televisions shows depicting the lives of "Average Joes" include "All in the Family" and "The Simpsons". In real life, as chronicled in his 2005 book "The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation's Most Ordinary Citizen," Kevin O'Keefe successfully completed a nationwide search for the person who was the most statistically average in the United States during a five-year span ending in 2005.

Families

As the United States is a highly diverse nation, it should not be surprising that there is no single prevalent household arrangement. While the "nuclear family" consisting of a married couple with their own children is often seen as the average American family, such households constitute less than a quarter of all households.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0] cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
] Married couples without children are currently the plurality constituting 28.7% of households, compared to 24.1% for nuclear families. Another 25.5% of households consisted of single persons residing alone. Recent trends have shown the numbers of nuclear families as well as childless married couples decrease. In 1970, 40.3% of US households consisted of nuclear families with childless couples making up 30.3% of households and 10.6% of households being arranged in "Other family types." By 2000 the percentage of nuclear families had decreased by 40%, while the number of other family types had increased by 51%. The percentage of single households has also steadily increased. In 1970, only 17% of households consisted of singles. In 2000 that figure had increased by 50% with singles constituting 25.5% of households. The most drastic increase was among the percentage of households made up of single males, which nearly doubled from 5.6% in 1970 to 10.7% in 2000.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0] Today, one can no longer refer to the nuclear family as the average American household, neither can one identify the current plurality of married couples without children as "the average." Recent statistics indeed indicate that there is no average American family arrangement, but that American society is home to a wide and diverse variety of family arrangements. The one thing the data does indicate is that the average Joe most likely does not reside in a nuclear 4-person family.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0] cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
]

cquote
"The nuclear family... is the idealized version of what most people think when they they think they think think of "family..." The old definition of what a family is... the nuclear family- no longer seems adequate to cover the wide diversity of household arrangements we see today, according to many social scientists (Edwards 1991; Stacey 1996). Thus has arisen the term "postmodern family", which is meant to describe the great variability in family forms, including single-parent families and child-free couples."- Brian K. Williams, Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, "Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships", 2005.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0]

A statement that can be made, however, is that most Americans will marry at least once in their lifetime with the first marriage most commonly ending in divorce. Today a little over half, 52.3% of US household include a married couple, showing a significant decrease since 1970 when 70.6% of households included a married couple.cite book | last = Williams | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom | year = 2005 | title = Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-36674-0] Current trends indicate that people in the US are marrying later and less often with higher divorce rates. Despite the declining prevalence of marriage more than three quarters of Americans will marry at least once in their lifetime. The average age for marriage for a male was 26.8 and 25.1 for a female. Americans are also likely to re-marry after their first divorce. In 1990, 40% of all marriages are remarriages. Overall one can conclude that while there is no prevalent average household arrangement, most Americans (the average Joe) will get married and divorced once with a considerable number of American re-marrying at least once.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
]

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2005cite web|url=http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908670.html|title=US Census Bureau, 2005, data published on Infoplease.com|accessdate=2007-01-12]

ocial class

In terms of social class the average American may be referred to as being either a member of the middlecite web|url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0510/p09s01-codc.html|title=Christian Science Monitor on What is Middle Class|accessdate=2006-09-11] or working class.cite book | last = Vanneman | first = Reeve | authorlink = | coauthors = Lynn Weber Cannon | year = 1988 | title = The American Perception of Class
publisher = Temple University Press | location = New York, NY | id = 0877225931
] cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class
publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331
] The discrepancy is largely the result of differing class models and definitions of what constitutes a member of the middle class. Currently the vast majority of Americans self-identify themselves as middle class, yet some experts in the field such Michael Zweig of NYU Stoney Brook or Dennis Gilbert of Cornell University have brought forth different theories. As most Americans are neither professionals nor managers and lack college degrees the average American may be described as being either or both, lower middle and working class.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
] cite web|url=http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf|title=US Census Bureau report on educational attainment in the United States, 2003|accessdate=2006-07-31]

cquote
"Everyone wants to believe they are middle class. For people on the bottom and the top of the wage scale the phrase connotes a certain Regular Joe cachet. But this eagerness to be part of the group has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord"- Dante Chinni, the "Christian Science Monitor"

Occupational autonomy is a key factor in regards to class positions.cite book | last = Eichar | first = Douglas | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Occupation and Class Consciousness in America | publisher = Greenwood Press | location = Westport, Connecticut | id = 0-313-26111-3] Professionals and managers who are exclusively labeled as middle class and often as upper middle class, conceptualize, create and consult in their jobs. Due to their great expertise they enjoy a high degree of autonomy in the work place.cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class
publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331
] The American economy, however, does not require a labor force consisting solely of professionals. Instead it requires a greatly diverse and specialized labor force. Thus the majority of Americans complete assigned tasks with considerably less autonym and creative freedom than professionals, leading to theory that they may better be described as being members of the working class.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
]

Occupation

Most Americans today are white collar salaried employees who work in varied environments, including comfortable offices, retail outlets, and hospitals. Roughly one quarter, 23.4%, of Americans were employed in the traditional blue collar fields that require hard physical labor with another 14% employed in the service industry.cite web|url=http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf|title=US Census Bureau report on educational attainment in the United States, 2003|accessdate=2006-07-31] Office administrators or more colloquial, secretaries, were the largest single occupation in the United States. In 2004 there were 4.1 million secretaries with a median income of $34,970, near the national median of $32,000.cite web|url=http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos151.htm|title=US Department of Labor, Office administrators in the US|accessdate=2007-01-12] Overall those employed in office administrative and support, service and sales occupations constituted 38.6% of the labor force. Those employed in business and professional as well as professional support occupations (e.g. nurses) made up 38.0% of the labor force. Combined white collar employees including service workers such as restaurant serves and hotel maids constituted 76.6% of the labor force. If service workers are excluded 62.8% were employed in white collar occupations. Educational attainment varied greatly depending on occupational field with 68% of those in the professional and professional support fields having a Bachelor's degree of higher, compared to only 31.6% of those employed in sales and 11.6% of those in the service sector. Considering the fact that the average American does not have a Bachelor's degree, he or she is most likely employed in the service, sales, and office support fields with many working in the professional support and business fields as well. Overall the American economy and labor force have changed greatly since the middle of the 20th. century with most worker today being employed in office and service occupations.cite web|url=http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf|title=US Census Bureau report on educational attainment in the United States, 2003|accessdate=2006-07-31]

Homeownership

According to US Department of Commerce data the vast majority, 67% of housing units in the United States were owner occupied, had three or fewer bedrooms with one or less occupant per room (including kitchen, dining room, living room, etc...) and were mortgaged.cite web|url=http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ADPTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_DP4&-ds_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_&-_lang=en&-_sse=on|title=US Census Bureau, Housing Charateristics, 2005|accessdate=2007-01-14] The overwhelming majority, 85%, of all housing units had three or fewer bedrooms while 15% of all housing had 4 or more bedrooms. The plurality of housing units, 40%, had three bedrooms. The vast majority, 67%, of housing units were mortgaged with 52% households spending 25% or less of their annual income on mortgage payments. The median value of a housing unit in the US was $167,500 in 2005 with the median mortgage payment being clocked at $1,295. The average size of a household was 2.5 persons with almost all housing units, 97%, having 1 or fewer occupants per room. However, the term "room" does not exclusively refer to bedrooms, but includes the kitchen, dining room, family room, bath rooms and any other rooms a house might have. While 85% of American homes had 3 or fewer bedrooms the median number of total rooms per housing units was 5.3 in 2005.cite web|url=http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ADPTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_DP4&-ds_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_&-_lang=en&-_sse=on|title=US Census Bureau, Housing Charateristics, 2005|accessdate=2007-01-14] Considering these statistics one can conclude that the average American resides in his or her own home, pays roughly $1,000 per month in mortgage payments for a three or less bedroom house with no more than one occupant per room.cite web|url=http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ADPTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_DP4&-ds_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_&-_lang=en&-_sse=on|title=US Census Bureau, Housing Charateristics, 2005|accessdate=2007-01-14]

US Census Bureau data from 2002 identified a series of housing characteristics for units owner-occupied units inhabited by households with average incomes, ranging from $40,000 to $60,000. The median square footage for homes occupied by middle income households was 1,700 with 52% of such homes having two or more bathrooms. The median value of these homes was $112,000 with the median year of construction being 1970. Middle income households tended to spend roughly 18% of their monthly income on housing. Considering these statistics it is likely that many average Americans reside in convert|1700|sqft|m2|sing=on homes, priced slightly above $100,000 with two or more bathrooms that were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.cite book | last = Beeghley | first = Leonard | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2004 | title = The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States | publisher = Pearson | location = New York, New York| id = 0-205-37558-8]

Criticism

While the notion of an "average person" is used extensively, some researchers warn of inherent controversies of the statistical approach, which must be taken with caution.

ee also

*Demographics of the United States
*Personal income in the United States
*Educational attainment in the United States
*Social structure of the United States
*Culture of the United States
*Homeownership in the United States

US related topics

See also

*General-audience description
*John Doe

References


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