The shrinking middle: New study points to challenges for boating
Jonathan Sweet, Editor-in-Chief
August 23, 2012
Filed under Jonathan Sweet
A new study out from the Pew Center shows just how badly the middle class has been walloped by the Great Recession and the decade that preceded it.
Since 2000, the middle class has gotten smaller and seen its average income and household wealth and shrink dramatically. Pew defines the middle class as those whose income is two-thirds to twice the national median, a group that makes up 51 percent of the population.
A few other key takeaways from the report:
- Average household income for the middle class fell 5 percent (in 2011 $) from $72,956 in 2001 to $69,487 in 2010
- Median net worth (in 2011 $) dropped 28 percent from $129,582 to $93,150
- 62 percent said they have had to decrease their spending
You can read the full report here.
What all this points to is a disturbing trend for our industry -- a shrinking middle class with increasingly less money means a smaller and smaller group to sell boats to. (There's a broader issue here, of course, but we'll stay focused on boating.)
When I think back to when I was a kid, almost everybody I knew had a boat. Heck, we had three. Sure, some of them were old, beat-up aluminum outboards, but my relatives and our neighbors, were out there on the water fishing or duck hunting or skiing. Most of the driveways in our neighborhood had a boat in them. I just don't see the same thing anymore, and that's a little scary.
Sure, some of this is just because people have other interests, but affordability is a big issue, too. We're in the process of going through our Top 100 applications right now, and it's something I'm seeing people write about, with a handful trying to address the issue through boat clubs, rentals, trial purchase periods and the such.
Others have decided just to aim for the top of the market, but there are only so many upper-income earners to go around.
I'm curious to hear what others are doing -- if you've got any good ideas, post them here in the comments.