Claritas | Worlds Away

Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes


Walker Art Center,
February 16 - August 17, 2008

Carnegie Museum of Art,
October 4, 2008 - January 18, 2009

Yale School of Architecture
March 2 - May 10, 2009

Because suburbia occupies a dominant presence in so many lives—a place of not only residence but also of work, commerce, worship, education, and leisure—it has become a focal point for competing interests and viewpoints. The suburbs have always been a fertile space for imagining both the best and the worst of modern social life. more

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All essays are originally from the companion book for this exhibition, Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes. Some essays appear in excerpted form where noted.

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We asked people to make a video telling us about the suburbs and put it on YouTube. Selected videos are showing in the gallery at the Walker Art Center during the run of the exhibition.

Selected Videos

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Original Submission Call

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Do you live in a suburb? Do you work or go to school in one? What is your experience of the “burbs? ”…

Whether you love them or hate them we’re interested in your thoughts on the phenomenon of the American suburb. We invite you to make a 5-minute video about strip malls, cul-de-sacs, office parks, and green lawns or whatever suburbia means to you. A select number of videos will be chosen to screen as part of the exhibition Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes in the Target Gallery from February 15 to May 18, 2008.

To participate, upload your video to YouTube and add the tag “walkerworldsaway” or post it as a response to our video above. We’ll feature all videos on the Walker’s YouTube page. To be considered for gallery screening, entries must be 5 minutes or less and be online by January 18, 2008.

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Claritas is a company that specializes in identifying target markets based on U.S. Census data and consumer patterns. These markets are described primarily as “social groups,” which roughly classify people by location and income. Each social group is further divided into “lifestyle clusters” that match demographics to consumption patterns. Claritas clusters have been used not only for consumer research but also to identify potential voters in elections.

Suburban residents in metro areas are divided into four social groups and nineteen lifestyle clusters.1

1.  Elite Suburbs (S1)

The most affluent suburban social group, Elite Suburbs is a world of six-figure incomes, post-graduate degrees, single-family homes and managerial and professional occupations. The segments here are predominantly white with significant concentrations of well-off Asian Americans. Befitting their lofty salaries, S1 members are big consumers of large homes, expensive clothes, luxury cars and foreign travel. Despite representing a small portion of the U.S. population, they hold a large share of the nation’s personal net worth.

1.1  Upper Crust

The nation’s most exclusive address, Upper Crust is the wealthiest lifestyle in America–a haven for empty-nesting couples over 55 years old. No segment has a higher concentration of residents earning over $200,000 a year or possessing a postgraduate degree. And none has a more opulent standard of living.

1.2  Blue Blood Estates

Blue Blood Estates is a family portrait of suburban wealth, a place of million-dollar homes and manicured lawns, high-end cars and exclusive private clubs. The nation’s second-wealthiest lifestyle, it is characterized by married couples with children, college degrees, a significant percentage of Asian Americans and six-figure incomes earned by business executives, managers and professionals.

1.3  Movers & Shakers

Movers & Shakers is home to America’s up-and-coming business class: a wealthy suburban world of dual-income couples who are highly educated, typically between the ages of 35 and 54, often with children. Given its high percentage of executives and white-collar professionals, there’s a decided business bent to this segment: Movers & Shakers rank number-one for owning a small business and having a home office.

1.4  Winner’s Circle

Among the wealthy suburban lifestyles, Winner’s Circle is the youngest, a collection of mostly 25- to 34-year-old couples with large families in new-money subdivisions. Surrounding their homes are the signs of upscale living: recreational parks, golf courses and upscale malls. With a median income of nearly $90,000, Winner’s Circle residents are big spenders who like to travel, ski, go out to eat, shop at clothing boutiques and take in a show.

2.  The Affluentials (S2)

The six segments in The Affluentials are one socioeconomic rung down from the Elite Suburbs–with a 25 percent drop in median income–but their residents still enjoy comfortable, suburban lifestyles. The median income in S2 is nearly $60,000, the median home value is about $200,000, and the mostly couples in this social group tend to have college degrees and white-collar jobs. Asian Americans make up an important minority in these predominantly white segments. As consumers, The Affluentials are big fans of health foods, computer equipment, consumer electronics and the full range of big-box retailers.

2.1  Executive Suites

Executive Suites consists of upper-middle-class singles and couples typically living just beyond the nation’s beltways. Filled with significant numbers of Asian Americans and college graduates–both groups are represented at more than twice the national average–this segment is a haven for white-collar professionals drawn to comfortable homes and apartments within a manageable commute to downtown jobs, restaurants and entertainment.

2.2  New Empty Nests

With their grown-up children recently out of the house, New Empty Nests is composed of upscale older Americans who pursue active–and activist–lifestyles. Nearly three-quarters of residents are over 65 years old, but they show no interest in a rest-home retirement. This is the top-ranked segment for all-inclusive travel packages; the favorite destination is Italy.

2.3  Pools & Patios

Formed during the postwar Baby Boom, Pools & Patios has evolved from a segment of young suburban families to one for mature, empty-nesting couples. In these stable neighborhoods graced with backyard pools and patios–the highest proportion of homes were built in the 1960s–residents work as white-collar managers and professionals, and are now at the top of their careers.

2.4  Beltway Boomers

The members of the postwar Baby Boom are all grown up. Today, these Americans are in their forties and fifties, and one segment of this huge cohort–college-educated, upper-middle-class and home-owning–is found in Beltway Boomers. Like many of their peers who married late, these Boomers are still raising children in comfortable suburban subdivisions, and they’re pursuing kid-centered lifestyles.

2.5  Kids & Cul-de-Sacs

Upscale, suburban, married couples with children–that’s the skinny on Kids & Cul-de-Sacs, an enviable lifestyle of large families in recently built subdivisions. With a high rate of Hispanic and Asian Americans, this segment is a refuge for college-educated, white-collar professionals with administrative jobs and upper-middle-class incomes. Their nexus of education, affluence and children translates into large outlays for child-centered products and services.

2.6  Home Sweet Home

Widely scattered across the nation’s suburbs, the residents of Home Sweet Home tend to be upper-middle-class married couples living in mid-sized homes with few children. The adults in the segment, mostly between the ages of 25 and 54, have gone to college and hold professional and white-collar jobs. With their upscale incomes and small families, these folks have fashioned comfortable lifestyles, filling their homes with toys, TV sets and pets.

3.  Middleburbs (S3)

The five segments that comprise Middleburbs share a middle-class, suburban perspective, but there the similarity ends. Two groups are filled with very young residents, two are filled with seniors and one is middle-aged. In addition, S3 includes a mix of both, homeowners and renters as well as high school graduates and college alums. With good jobs and money in their jeans, the members of Middleburbs tend to have plenty of discretionary income to visit nightclubs and casual-dining restaurants, shop at midscale department stores, buy dance and easy listening CDs by the dozen and travel across the U.S. and Canada.

3.1  Gray Power

The steady rise of older, healthier Americans over the past decade has produced one important by-product: middle-class, home-owning suburbanites who are aging in place rather than moving to retirement communities. Gray Power reflects this trend, a segment of older, midscale singles and couples who live in quiet comfort

3.2  Young Influentials

Once known as the home of the nation’s yuppies, Young Influentials reflects the fading glow of acquisitive yuppiedom. Today, the segment is a common address for young, middle-class singles and couples who are more preoccupied with balancing work and leisure pursuits. Having recently left college dorms, they now live in apartment complexes surrounded by ball fields, health clubs and casual-dining restaurants.

3.3  Suburban Sprawl

Suburban Sprawl is an unusual American lifestyle: a collection of midscale, middle-aged singles and couples living in the heart of suburbia. Typically members of the Baby Boom generation, they hold decent jobs, own older homes and condos, and pursue conservative versions of the American Dream. Among their favorite activities are jogging on treadmills, playing trivia games and renting videos.

3.4  Blue-Chip Blues

Blue-Chip Blues is known as a comfortable lifestyle for young, sprawling families with well-paying blue-collar jobs. Ethnically diverse–with a significant presence of Hispanics and African-Americans–the segment’s aging neighborhoods feature compact, modestly priced homes surrounded by commercial centers that cater to child-filled households.

3.5  Domestic Duos

Domestic Duos represents a middle-class mix of mainly over-55 singles and married couples living in older suburban homes. With their high-school educations and fixed incomes, segment residents maintain an easy-going lifestyle. Residents like to socialize by going bowling, seeing a play, meeting at the local fraternal order or going out to eat.

4.  Inner Suburbs

The four segments in the Inner Suburbs social group are concentrated in the inner-ring suburbs of major metros–areas where residents tend to be high school educated, unmarried and lower-middle class. There’s diversity in this group, with segments that are racially mixed, divided evenly between homeowners and renters and filled with households that are either young or aging in place. However, the consumer behavior of the S4 segments are dominated by older Americans who enjoy social activities at veterans clubs and fraternal orders, TV news and talk shows, and shopping at discount department stores.

4.1  New Beginnings

Filled with young, single adults, New Beginnings is a magnet for adults in transition. Many of its residents are twentysomething singles and couples just starting out on their career paths–or starting over after recent divorces or company transfers. Ethnically diverse–with nearly half its residents Hispanic, Asian or African-American–New Beginnings households tend to have the modest living standards typical of transient apartment dwellers.

4.2  Old Glories

Old Glories are the nation’s downscale suburban retirees, Americans aging in place in older apartment complexes. These racially mixed households often contain widows and widowers living on fixed incomes, and they tend to lead home-centered lifestyles. They’re among the nation’s most ardent television fans, watching game shows, soaps, talk shows and newsmagazines at high rates.

4.3  American Classics

They may be older, lower-middle class and retired, but the residents of American Classics are still living the American Dream of home ownership. Few segments rank higher in their percentage of home owners, and that fact alone reflects a more comfortable lifestyle for these predominantly white singles and couples with deep ties to their neighborhoods.

4.4  Suburban Pioneers

Suburban Pioneers represents one of the nation’s eclectic lifestyles, a mix of young singles, recently divorced and single parents who have moved into older, inner-ring suburbs. They live in aging homes and garden-style apartment buildings, where the jobs are blue-collar and the money is tight. But what unites these residents–a diverse mix of whites, Hispanics and African-Americans–is a working-class sensibility and an appreciation for their off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods.

For other types of suburban residents see centaur, chameleon, empty nester, food court druid, lifestyle commuter, mall rat, Patio Man, Realtor Mom, and soccer mom.


1 The following information is taken from Claritas Prism NE marketing segment snapshots. (↑)


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