The Demographics Of Occupy Wall Street

Students are a big contingent at Zuccotti Park and other occupations. But a new study shows that online support crosses age, income and political boundaries. Look out for the rich, nonpartisan mobs.

Coverage of the technology at Occupy Wall Street focuses on the neat-o, young-people elements such as Twitter, Facebook, live streaming video, and a sleepover atmosphere. But Occupy Wall Street also employs the kind of heavy-duty data crunching and analysis found at marketing firms and universities. In fact, two of the volunteers, business analyst Harrison Schultz and professor Hector R. Cordero-Guzman from the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, today released a study based on a survey of 1,619 visitors to the site on October 5. And about a quarter of them have also attended occupation events. So they aren't all armchair activists.

Some of the results are to be expected. For example about 64% of respondents are younger than 34. But others back up the assertion made in the title of the report "Main Stream Support for a Mainstream Movement: The 99% Movement Comes From and Looks Like the 99%."

Among the findings:

They aren’t all kids. Xers, Boomers, and older are also in on it: One-third of respondents is older than 35, and one-fifth is 45 or older.

It’s not all students and the educated elite. About 8% have, at best, a high school degree. And just about a quarter (26.7%) are enrolled in school. Only about 10% are full-time students.

"Get a job!" wouldn’t apply to most of them. Half of the respondents are already employed full-time, and an additional 20% work part-time. Just 13.1% are unemployed—not a whole lot more than the national average.

"Tax the rich!" could hit close to home. About 15% earn between $50,000 and $80,000 annually (pretty good anywhere except in Manhattan). Thirteen percent earn over $75,000 annually, and nearly 2% bring in more than $150,000.

It may be a party, but not that kind. The movement is often identified as a liberal, even Democrat-dominated cause. But just 27.3% of respondents call themselves Democrats (and 2.4% are Republican). And the rest, 70% call themselves independents.

Not everyone tweets. The microblogging site played a big role in getting the movement started. But that’s not how most people keep up with it. Twenty-nine percent of respondents are regular Twitter users. But 66% are Facebook regulars. The biggest online community, however, is YouTube, with about 74% being regular users.

While interesting, the survey is still a rough cut, with some gaps. For example, it’s based largely on what men said, as they make up about two-thirds of the survey takers. But the genders may not be so far apart. In an email Harrison Schultz tells Fast Company, "Response patterns for female respondents were so nearly identical to the male respondents that I won't bother to indicate them." The one difference: 52% of the women listen to the radio, vs. 40% the men. So Schultz is looking at this to fine-tune OWS’s target marketing. (Yes, they are doing target marketing.)

And so far, according to the survey, Occupy Wall Street would qualify as stuff white people like. The sample of non-white people, according to Schultz, is too small to even analyze. One thing he noticed, however, is that some people identify with nationality, rather than race—another item to keep in mind for target marketing. And in the vein, the organizers have been discussing doing a "non-white media day," in which everyone who speaks to the media is of another ethnic background. They have also discussed doing an over-40 day.

On a personal note, I have noticed plenty of both at the park and the marches.

Follow @SeanCaptain on Twitter

[Top image: Flickr user erin m; lower image: Sean Captain]


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  • Too-Bigs are government-enforced and government-subsidized, against small and medium-sized businesses (unless the SME's have an uncle in a legislature, in which case smalls can get subsidies too). We are not dealing with fascism yet, and that is what we have when we have an alphabet zoo full of agencies that enforce what big-chems want (plus 3 Supreme Court justices with chem/ag backgrounds). People who want to start new buzinesses are having to subsidize their competition while trying to start up. How does a grandma with a beat-up truck compete with Waste Management? It's not happening to the extent we need it to.

  • alexander the new yorker


  • Littlest Ice Age

    If you are upset about the representation of the demographics of Occupy Wall Street, you should complain directly to the media outlets that provide them.

    For instance, I became aware of this article at The New York Observer today:

    This article highlights the thoughts of a runway model and a "sometime" professor of poetry, both male, both young, able-bodied and white. Their situation is glamorized by the fact that the author mentions repeatedly the BSDM (bondage/fetish) scene that one young man is involved in, while dropping the fact that his books of poetry are distributed on the front-row seats of fashion shows and that he and his girlfriend are staying at an expensive, high-rise hotel far above the protesters.

    The protesters are also compared to disciples of Jesus, which is a reductive way of describing a diverse population of varying faiths who set aside their personal differences to speak out against corporate greed. 

    In addition, one of the young men featured says,  “We need a sex space in the park, a space surrounded by tarps, held by the people, so we can get naked and fill each other with ourselves." And a few lines later: “I want to moan as the bankers and men on Wall Street watch with their binoculars, and in this way we shall win. They’ll come, demanding our naked bodies, and we’ll share ourselves. Sasha Gray, where are you? Get down here and gang bang for democracy. And show them just how beautiful our bodies, and the way we glow when we make one another radiate.”

    Just how sensational does this coverage have to get? 

    Occupy Wall Street isn't about sex, or being sexy, it isn't Hollywood. Our media machine will package revolt into a sexy little package, but we don't have to buy it. 

    Complain directly to the source that their journalists should cover the real protesters, not the fashion models and aristocrat wanna-be's that are using the protest as a backdrop for their "rebel poet" image.


  • GR Davis

    Many are trying to make the people who are representing the rest of us in peaceful protest look strange or greedy.  It is not greedy to want laws that allow you to feed your family and keep a roof over your head.  We are living in a country with political leaders who are aiding the corporations in removing the jobs from our country.  Thomas Jefferson said "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.”  As a result of the power the banks and corporations have in this country, the prediction of our founding father is coming true.  But it’s not too late to stop it.  Many European countries adopted the ideas of FDR to create a 2nd bill of rights.  If you didn’t study history the 2nd bill of rights includes:
    1.       The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
    2.       The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    3.       The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    4.       The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    5.       The right of every family to a decent home;
    6.       The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    7.       The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    8.       The right to a good education.  
    The people of occupy wall street need to chant FDR was right, 2nd bill of rights.  At this point the politicians do not want to give the people anything, so they may as well ask for everything.

  • Jennifer

    One-third of respondents are over 35. The youngest Xer is 32 if you adhere to the broadest definition of that generation. So, more than 50 percent are not Generation Y? Is that correct. Wow. I've written about the movement from a generational perspective. This is great information. Here is my famous page of all the Occupy Wall Street logos.

  • OccupyReality

    I went to my local OWS just to scope it out. Mostly College kids or grads that couldn't find a job that relates to their degree.

    The 1% at OWS do not represent the 99% and I suggest those at OWS go OCCUPY A ECONOMICS COURSE. If you didn't pay the 1% and continue to pay the 1% they wouldn't be rich. Give your money to people you support and that support you in return! Not in corrupt people that could care less about you. It's that simple.

    You can't complain about low wages, lack of jobs, etc when you are on your iPhone that was made by Chinese slaves for $100 a month. To the rest of the world you, the 99%, are the 1%! The 99% is richer than the 65% of the rest of the world. VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLAR!

  • Joe Wolf

    When dollars vote my friend, the votes of 400 people outweigh the votes of 150 million in this country, and they have an even more potent effect overseas.

  • Wize Adz


    I used to think that actually maintained the balance of power between companies and the consumer.  It certainly does with the small business I grew up with.  HOWEVER, the longer I'm a customer of companies like Comcast, AT&T, Microsoft, and other oversized behemoths, the less I believe that this actually works.  It seems to me that, once companies reach a certain size, they are no longer governed by the rules of business as I understood them.  This is problem.

  • Wize Adz

     : "There is no such thing as 'too big to fail' so the laws of business always apply.  Unless, that is, the government intervenes...and THAT is where the real trouble begins."

    I used to think that, too, and it might be true if our economy were a superfluid.  But, a visit to Detroit might convince you otherwise.  It takes individuals, other business, and societies time and money to adapt to change.  In the case of the banks, that adaptation would have been quite traumatic, as when any major employer closes in a town whose economy it supports.  So, how to deal with the very real human cost of causing people to relocate?  Our economy and our society is not as fluid as your argument suggests.

    My person solution for this is to admit that there is "too big to fail", and then break up these large institutions into smaller business ecosystems.  Implementing this is a challenge .  A naive/radical idea that illustrates what I'm trying to achieve would be to limit each business to 30 people; that way, a business fails and 30 people are out of work.  These business units would compete and shift alliances constantly, hire out the services of other groups, fail, and they could fail and be reborn.  Instead of 30,000 people to loose their jobs on the same day, it could be spread out over several years as things wax and wane, which would make the world more like your ideas about how business is supposed to work.  Alas, I haven't figured out how to keep groups from gaming this system (forbid exclusive relationships?) and ending up with the exact same situation we have now -- and it would be impossible to get our country to agree with this.

    The root issue here is that big business and small business ARE NOT THE SAME THING.  Big businesses have all of the institutional bureaucracy, power, inflexibility, deafness, and impersonality that conservatives accuse the government of having.  And, to make matters worse, big businesses have political power to influence the government.  Small and medium businesses, on the other hand, really are as great as everyone says they are and as deserving of a pro-business policy as conservatives say they are.  I want my local mechanic, my local restaurants, and my local bank to succeed and to make money, but I don't want to be jerked around by Bank of America or AT&T, and I don't want Goldman Sachs to be setting government policy.  Let's stop confusing small business and big business, please.

    Oh, and I'm not even a protester; I'm a middle-class guy with white-collar job that I need to get back to.  I am an irritated former-conservative who voted for Obama.

  • RR1White

    There is no such thing as 'too big to fail' so the laws of business always apply.  Unless, that is, the government intervenes...and THAT is where the real trouble begins.  About the only time free market competition fails is when one business has established a monopoly.  That is the about the only time government should intervene.  And, of course, those who break the law, should be punished.  But getting upset because a Wall Street executive makes a crap load of money?  It makes no sense.  Go get upset at the movie/music/sports stars.  They have arguably done less to earn their wealth than most executives.  Go get upset at lottery winners.  They have done nothing to earn their wealth.  These people have got everything completely backwards.

  • The_Facts

    As a long-term NYC resident, I recognize many (more than a hundred) of the regular crazed drug addicts who panhandle 24 hours a day at Union Square across from Whole Foods, including Trips, Signs, Mouthful, Smeller, Lotion, Jesus Guadeloupe, Chewy, Unicorn, Dusty, etc.

    Instead of ripping off tourists they are now ripping off donors, eating the best food of their lives and giving falsely-representative interviews to any network that will give them a blinking red light in the face, and in general, giving anyone who ever supported OWS second thoughts about it.

    Again, these Union Square transplants have been crack cocaine addicts for the last ten-fifteen years, have no jobs, or ambitions thereof, and exist by prostituting themselves, ripping off tourists, and dealing drugs.

    I think we should kick them out of the Park.

  • Wize Adz

    OK, so there are some loosers who are protesting.  That makes sense; they may have something to complain about, or they might just be there for the food.  But, what about those solidly middle class people who out there with something that they need you to hear?

  • atimoshenko

    They're not looking at the right thing. It is about culture more than it is about demography. Ask the protestors their views on hot button issues such as gay marriage, abortion, global warming, evolution, the Iraq war, and assault weapon bans, or even more general questions on which places they like to eat, which countries they have travelled to, which music they listen to, which books they read, and how often they go to the theatre, and I would wager that the group will appear quite homogenous and not very representative of the entire country.

    This is not to fault the movement – I think that they are right in what they are doing (then again, culturally I would be a pretty good fit with them too) – but I do not think it is accurate to say that they "come from and look like 99%" of Americans.

  • sondra dellaripa

    ..especially if we take The_Facts advise and segregate some of the protestors....are they not all the 99%? Or should only the 1%  of the 99% have the right to be there....the problem with eltism is it shows no favor.....

  • josh rich

    Gotta love metrics. It's not about what you say, but what you do. The best way to communicate a message of broad-based support is to demonstrate it.

  • OccupyReality

     Too bad they don't demonstrate it, lets tweet about corporate greed on our iphones! yay!

  • Ross P

    Oh give me a break. I guess they're all supposed to be luddites or something? There are definitely people who don't have phones and don't buy in to anything. But if they want to get the message out and means using technology, and I think they're smart enough to know this. Besides, we're mostly pissed about fraud in the banking industry, lobbyists and corrupting influence of money in politics. Most could give a shit about where Apple makes it's phones.