Who, Exactly, Is the ‘Average American’?

If you collected all of the results from the census and other data sets, what would the average American look like?

An image of an American woman that's been distorted with image manipulation software filters until there is nothing left.

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!

SUPPORT THE POST

Do you ever ask yourself, when you hear statements about what America as a nation thinks or wants, if these declarations are representative of the average American? In a country as diverse and dynamic as the United States, is there even such a thing as an “average” American?

To answer that question, we tried to create a profile* of the average American based on data from the census, research, and polls. Here’s what we found.

According to the recent census, our average American is a white female, between 30 and 34 years old, with German ancestors. If we use the median age of 32, years she was born in 1989, when the most popular girl’s name was Jessica. She lives in California and is married. She’s a five-foot, four-inch brunette, and the mother of a two-year-old boy.

She has taken some college-level courses and might even hold an associate’s degree. And she works in the healthcare industry.

Jessica drives a 12-year-old Toyota Camry, in which she spends almost one hour every day commuting between work and the home she and her husband rent.

She thinks America is one of the best countries on earth, but its government should do more to solve problems, that society benefits from increased racial and ethnic diversity, and that the earth is getting warmer due to human activity.

Jessica isn’t registered with either political party but will keep voting democratic for the foreseeable future. She doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

She believes in God, heaven, and hell, considers herself Christian, says her religion is important to her, and attends church at least a few times a year. She believes what’s “right” or “wrong” will depend on the situation, and she relies on common sense more than religion for guidance.

Jessica believes mass shootings are a big problem in America, that it’s too easy to buy a gun. If gun regulations were strengthened, gun violence would decrease. She doesn’t own a gun, but she supports Second Amendment rights.

Financially, this average American earns $47,000 a year, owes debts totaling $87,000, and has a net worth of about $8,000. But she’s not discouraged. Jessica still believes in the American dream, and that she can attain it, despite the rising costs of health insurance and childcare. She believes that if she works hard, she’ll succeed in life and move up the economic ladder to enjoy a standard of living as good as or better than her parents’.

If majority rule prevailed in America — which would require all Americans to vote — women like Jessica would have more influence in shaping our laws.

But our government isn’t chosen by average Americans. Even if all the Jessicas in America voted the same way, they simply don’t outnumber all the non-Jessicas. She is only a collection of the characteristics found in the greatest frequency, not a clone army with identical thoughts and opinions. And a government run by average Americans might have little to offer Americans who don’t fit the average mold.

What makes democracy work aren’t simply large groups of like-minded people, but that essential component of democracy: compromise — the willingness to make tradeoffs to build coalitions that amount to a true majority of voters.

*Author Note: This composite is drawn from average values for Americans according to the most recent figures from the census or opinion polls — except when the details are specific to millennial women.

When possible, we used data specific to millennial women. If that wasn’t available, we used data from millennials, and when that wasn’t available, we used general population data. We believe most of these figures are correct and up to date, though some are drawn from studies or articles written as far back as 2018.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now

Comments

  1. I wish the politicians would read this and understand that the income is pretty close to what most or the majority of people make. There are a lot of people renting as well, so they never settle down and build a good community.

  2. Critics of the article need to note that the “average” done for this included men. There are more women than men in the U.S. It isn’t politically biased. It reflects the reality of demographic data. It’s interesting how many didn’t carefully read the article.

  3. Average American This article was written by a democrat, if it was a republican the economy would be great,
    the woman would not have to work, she could home school because the public schools are so,corrupt, religion
    would be an important part of her life, the government would not try to socialize every one and depend on the goverment for livelihood.

  4. The “average” American is decidedly “below average” overall. The average American woman is 5’4″ and 172 lbs., which by any measure or metric is clinically obese. Not a good look. Fortunately, I have money and am physically fit and have been options than visiting the trailer park for the “average American woman”.

  5. I agree with most of what was said. Was a woman chosen because there are more women in the US? I agree America is probably the best country to live!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *