NEW YORK: Amid the turbulent rapids of America's economy comes news that its demographic profile has undergone a dramatic change. Not only does the average age of the 'head of household' now verge on the fifty mark, regional age differentials are widening at the fastest rate on record.

The US Atlantic-Pacific divide expands by the day, reports leading US demographer Peter Francese in an article for Advertising Age.

The young, multicultural West bears little resemblance to the old, largely white Northeast, where many communities are nearly childless.

"And," adds Francese, grinding an ax he wields later in his article, "that's to say nothing of the rapid and economically vital influx of immigrants."

He continues: "The average US head of household is now nearly 50 years old (49.5, to be precise). But here's the bigger story: More than 80% of the growth in the number of households in the next five years will be among those headed by people 55 and older. That's pretty scary stuff for the youth-obsessed."

But it's possible, believes Francese, that this unmodish demographic could prove be the lifeline that hauls America out of recession.

"Can these older consumers, whom many in marketing have ignored for so long, pick up the spending slack?" he asks rhetorically.

"Well, they've been doing pretty well lately. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in its annual consumer-spending surveys that households headed by people 55-64 increased their total spending at almost twice the rate of all households (60% vs 32%) in the most recent five-year survey period.

"No other age group comes even close to that growth rate. One reason for the jump in spending was the 23% growth in older households. But the other reason was rising household income. The average household headed by someone 55 to 64 had $10,600 more to spend in 2007 than the average household in that age group five years earlier.

Francese is founder of American Demographics magazine and demographic trends analyst at Ogilvy & Mather. His Advertising Age article, which concludes with advice to marketers, can be viewed in full by clicking on the preceding link.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff