How Different Communities Prefer to Spend Leisure Time

by Elizabeth Sherwood May 24, 2018

Summertime is almost here and as Americans look forward to the beach trips and vacations of the next few months, the American Communities Project (ACP) finds there are different items on the leisure agenda in different locales. Yet if there is a great warm-weather equalizer in the nation it may be listening to music.

Across the 15 community types, 65 percent of respondents listened to music as a leisure activity in the last 12 months, according to an analysis of Simmons Consumer Data from July to December 2017. The high reached 67 percent in College Towns while the low fell to 60 percent in Hispanic Centers. That music holds cultural value and imposes a relatively low user cost makes it a prime choice for leisure.

In that vein, concert sales have surged nationwide. Statistica reported record sales on concert tickets, generating $8 billion of revenue in North America in 2017. This marks the peak of a steady climb since 2010, when sales totaled $4.25 billion.

Where the Concertgoers Are

Music festival and concert attendance sat at 34 percent across types, according to Simmons survey data asking if the individual attended a concert or music festival in the last 12 months. It appears that live music consumption mimics listening preferences. For example, attendance reached 36 percent in College Towns and dropped to 28 percent in Hispanic Centers. Evangelical Hubs and Working Class Country experienced an equally low number of concert attendees, likely due to a lack of local venues and rising ticket prices. People in those communities tend to have lower household incomes.

Joining College Towns with the highest concert and music festival attendees were Exurbs (35 percent) and Urban Suburbs (36 percent). With larger disposable incomes and access to nearby cities, these communities are well positioned to spend money on live music. Additionally, the presence of mega churches could draw in acts from the Contemporary Christian community, adding to ticket sales beyond large city venues. The large percentage of individuals in College Towns attending concerts and festivals suggests that students, while struggling to pay for their education, still value seeing their favorite bands live.

Who’s in Front of the Big Screen

Despite tales of decline, many still visit movie theaters at least occasionally. On average 64 percent of respondents across community types said they had been to the movies at least once in the last six months. Hispanic Centers and Evangelical Hubs once again ranked among the lowest consumers, with 59 percent and 61 percent reporting a visit to the theater, respectively.

Conversely, College Towns and Exurbs reached the top of the movie-going ranks. Sixty-seven percent of each group said they had been to the movies in the past six months. Surprisingly, the community with the highest share of movie-goers is the LDS Enclaves, with 69 percent seeing a movie in the past six months.

Family Activities in LDS Enclaves

The internet, too, has affected how people choose to spend their free time. Forty-eight percent of respondents across community types remarked on such a change. Interestingly, the LDS Enclaves reported the greatest shift at 52 percent, and their use of streaming services highlights this. While average Netflix use within communities was just under 14 percent, 21 percent of individuals in LDS Enclaves said they use the site monthly.

But the LDS Enclaves aren’t just watching a lot of movies and streaming television. This group  reported the highest participation in many leisure activities, including reading, dining out, and barbecuing. Why might that be? Probably because the LDS community appreciates clean, family-oriented activities. Kid-friendly programming and family dining atmospheres make “dinner-and-a-movie” an enjoyable option. Additional leisure opportunities spurred by increased internet use ensure that nobody has idle hands.

Vol. 1 October 2018

Health and Place in America

The American Communities Project releases its first report supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Learn More

Who’s Sleeping the Most and Least in America?

by Ari Pinkus May 03, 2018

Now’s the time when students of all ages are cramming for end-of-year exams through the wee hours. But it’s not just students sleeping poorly—and it’s not just in May. A health problem that’s been building in America for some time, insufficient sleep was classified as a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016—and continues to be a pain point.

Sleep in American Communities

Now that the American Communities Project (ACP) is bringing its lens to the 2018 County Health Rankings, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program, the ever-present problem comes into sharper relief. ACP found that insufficient sleep is an issue in all 15 community types, but it is a matter of degree.

One group stands out for being particularly sleep deprived: the African American South, often found in more rural areas from Virginia through Texas, where African Americans can make up more than 40 percent of the population and the median household income is at the lowest level of all types. Here the insufficient sleep average jumps to 38 percent. These counties show more evidence of other health problems laid out in the rankings, including high rates of obesity (35 percent) and physical inactivity (31 percent). Among the community types, it also ranks highest in income inequality, signaling socioeconomic distress.

On the other end of the scale are more homogenous places. The sharpest example occurs in Aging Farmlands, where the insufficient sleep rate drops to 27 percent. These counties in the Great Plains are home to about 576,000 people, 92 percent of which live in rural areas. They tend to be the oldest and least racially and ethnically diverse places in America, with more than a quarter over age 62 and 96 percent white. A slower, quieter life without work stress may contribute to better sleeping patterns. Graying America—where nearly a quarter of the population is 62 and older, and there’s also less diversity than the nation writ large—the rate holds at 31 percent on average. For that matter, Rural Middle America, where nearly 22 million people live, clocks in at 31 percent as well. These counties are a bit wealthier, more rural, and less diverse on average.

Sleep deprivation is slightly less prevalent in LDS Enclaves at 29 percent. Since the early 2000s, the Mormon Church has devoted some attention in its publications to the importance of sleep and rest.

Aside from LDS Enclaves and Aging Farmlands, the percentage of people in American communities not getting enough sleep remains above 30 percent on average—underscoring that the problem is justified to merit national attention. In fact, many different kinds of communities hover around the one-third figure. In the affluent Exurbs, 33 percent of residents on average report an insufficient amount of sleep. Hispanic Centers and College Towns, both of which have high percentages of youth, stand at 32 percent. Working Class Country, Native American Lands, Big Cities, and Urban Suburbs are at 34 percent.

Why Sleep Matters

Since 2016, the County Health Rankings have included insufficient sleep in a host of measures about one’s life quality and length. The report cites many reasons:

  • “Sleep plays a key role in maintaining proper growth and repair of the body, learning, memory, emotional resilience, problem solving, decision making, and emotional control.
  • Ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to heart disease, depression and anxiety, risky behavior, and suicide.
  • A lack of sleep can also affect others’ health. Sleepiness, especially while driving, can lead to motor vehicle crashes.”

To obtain a measure, the rankings incorporate a key question from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey: “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period? Think about the time you actually spend sleeping or napping, not just the amount of sleep you think you should get.”

Insufficient sleep translates to the percentage of adults who respond that they get less than seven hours of zzzz a night on average. In 2016, about one third of adults reported getting insufficient sleep. In some counties, it was almost one in two residents.

That same year Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time debuted and became a national best-seller. In it, she describes collapsing from exhaustion in 2007.

Vol. 1 October 2018

Health and Place in America

The American Communities Project releases its first report supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Learn More