A Day in the Life of the Average American
Having lived and worked in the dominant industries in “coastal elite” cities Los Angeles (media / entertainment) and San Francisco (venture capital / tech), it’s apparent to me that many people in these metros (myself included) are sometimes biased to assume that our experiences, lifestyles, and beliefs are more common than they may actually be. It’s not hard to imagine why — both industries are inhabited by fairly likeminded individuals and create brands & products that are highly recognized and consumed around the world — so if everyone knows and consumes the products of our labor, they must be like us, right? Not exactly.
The U.S. population currently sits around 327 million people. New York boasts ~9 million residents, Los Angeles has 4 million people, and Silicon Valley has an aggregate of 3 million residents. That leaves 311 million people — or 95% of the U.S. population — outside of these culturally dominant urban areas.
I’ve found that occasionally leaving your bubble (whether a big city or small town) can be an illuminating experience that expands your perspective and empathetic capacity. As Mark Twain famously wrote, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” So as an exercise, let’s leave our proverbial “bubbles,” and compare our lives to that of the “average” American in 2019— we’ll call her Annie.
She earned her high school diploma and attended some college, but did not earn a degree.
Annie is married, and lives with her husband in an urban area. They own their home, which was built in the 1970’s and is worth ~$140,000. Their monthly housing costs including a mortgage are $1,515, and they have ~$135,000 in debt, including a mortgage, student loans, car loans, and credit card debt.
Annie and her husband’s total annual household income is $57,652, and they have about $45,000 in retirement savings. However, they do not have $1,000 in savings to cover an emergency expense.
Annie does not exercise regularly. She does watch 4.7 hours of TV per day, and spends about 2 hours on social media. Annie has 11 alcoholic drinks per week (~1.5 per day), and reads about 4 books per year.
She identifies as a political independent, but tends to vote Democratic. Her and her husband consider themselves Christians.
Finally, Annie is “pro-choice,” and supports the “death penalty,” same-sex marriage, and the legalization of cannabis. Perhaps most relatably, she also believes that she is smarter than the average American.
Nothing in Annie’s life is too shocking, which isn’t surprising — because after all — she’s average. How does your life compare to the average American in 2019?
[Important Note: When combining averages / medians / most-common demographics over different factors and from different sources, things can get messy. The information above is based on U.S. Census data where available, and is a good-faith attempt at representing the “average American” across many factors. That said, there are undoubtedly differing figures & sources that could be used. If you take issue with any of the figures above, comment below. ]
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I’m currently an investor at Sinai Ventures in San Francisco. Previously digital TV strategy at 21st Century Fox in Los Angeles. Northwestern Alum. Chicago Native. Feel free to reach out here, on LinkedIn, or Twitter.