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Nielsen: More Than Half of U.S. Consumers, Young and Old, Believe Country’s Economic State Will Last Longer Than 12 Months


Women More Pessimistic About State of Economy, Personal Finances, Job Prospects

Schaumburg, IL: The majority (86 percent) of U.S. consumers believe the country is currently in a recession and more than half (54 percent) believe it will last longer than 12 months, according to a new online survey by The Nielsen Company, conducted in the midst of economic turmoil last month.

Nielsen’s survey shows that when it came to predicting the end of the recession, most consumers are pessimistic. Only 18 percent said they believe the recession will be over within a year. The least amount of confidence was expressed by 25- to 29-year olds, with just six percent saying the recession would be over within 12 months. Fifty-two percent of consumers in this age range say they do not feel the recession’s end would come that soon. Similarly, only seven percent of consumers age 65 and over believe the recession will be over within the year, with 63 percent of consumers in this age range saying they don’t believe the recession will be over within 12 months. (See chart “Do You Think The U.S. Will Be Out of an Economic Recession in the Next 12 Months?” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

“Younger consumers grew up in an era of prosperity and have never really known economic challenges to this extent,” said James Russo, vice president, Marketing, The Nielsen Company. “To them perhaps, the current economic downturn is uncharted territory. There is a pervasive feeling of uncertainty, and concern which is clearly affecting spending levels. Older consumers are understandably concerned because of the potential impact of the economic downturn on their near-term financial needs,” said Russo.

Mars Vs. Venus
Nielsen’s survey shows that interestingly, more women (91 percent) than men (82 percent) feel the U.S. economy is in recession. Men were markedly more optimistic than women about the recession’s end, with 27 percent of males responding affirmatively, compared to only 11 percent of females. When asked about the state of their own personal finances over the next 12 months, 39 percent of females responded “not so good” compared to 28 percent of males. Only 16 percent of women surveyed think their job prospects over the next 12 months will be good, compared to 26 percent of men.

Economy a Great Concern for Young and Old (er)
Not surprisingly, Nielsen’s research shows that 38 percent of U.S. consumers consider the economy their biggest concern over the next six months. The finding was fairly consistent across different age groups, with older Americans even more worried - - 48 percent of consumers age 50 – 54 and 52 percent of those age 55 – 59 - - cited the economy as their greatest concern. Among all U.S. consumers, increasing fuel prices comes in a distant second place at 10 percent, followed by debt (9 percent), increasing utility bills (7 percent), increasing food prices (5 percent) and job security (5 percent). (See chart “U.S. Consumers Biggest Concern Over the Next Six Months ” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

“Younger consumers have more time to weather the storm, rebuild their savings, and position themselves for growth,” said Russo. “It is worth noting, however, that older consumers, while understandably concerned, control nearly three-quarters of the net worth in the U.S., and have done a better job of managing their finances with higher savings rates and lower debt levels.”

Pinching Pennies
Nielsen’s survey shows that consumers are employing a number of belt-tightening strategies to help them cope with economic woes. Trying to save on gas and electricity was cited by more than two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. consumers, while more than half of consumers (56 percent) say they are cutting back on out-of-home entertainment, spending less on new clothes (55 percent) and using their cars less often (54 percent). Just four percent report taking no action at all. (See chart “As the Cost of Living Is Rising Rapidly... ” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

Money? What Money?
Should they find themselves with extra money in their pockets, the majority of U.S. consumers are hesitant to spend it. Once they have covered essential living expenses, 38 percent of consumers put any spare cash into savings, while 36 percent use it to pay off debts, credit cards or loans. Nearly a quarter of consumers (24 percent) report having no spare cash. (See chart “How Consumers Use Spare Cash After Covering Essential Living Expenses” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

“By the end of the second quarter, most U.S. consumers had already come to the conclusion the country was in recession,” said James Russo, vice president, Marketing, The Nielsen Company. “As far as consumers are concerned, it doesn’t particularly matter that a growing number of economic indicators are pointing in that direction. They were feeling pain in their wallets and bank accounts long before October’s tumultuous stock market activity.”
About The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey
The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Consumer Research, was conducted from September 22 to October 6, 2008 among 28,663 Internet users - - including more than 500 U.S. consumers - - in 52 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North American and the Middle East. The largest half-yearly survey of its kind, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Confidence and Opinion Survey provides insights into current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and the major concerns of consumers across the globe.

About The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA. For more information, please visit,


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