Weekly Consumer Insights: Family Planning & the Remodeled American Dream - May 18

In this week’s Harris Poll Tracker, we look ahead at family planning in a post-pandemic world and what Americans have learned about home ownership. Also, some lessons from the Northeast on opening the economy, as well as our appreciation for Big Box retailers.



The Future of Family (Planning) – Could the future consist of smaller families living closer to one another? Various life-changing events (marriage, having children, living closer to family, what kids’ study in college) are bubbling to the forefront as many Americans are doing some heavy soul-searching. Both parents and nonparents.

  • Fear holds steady: 80% of Americans say they are afraid to leave their homes.
  • 83% of parents say COVID-19 has made them less likely to want more children; while only 17% say it has made them more likely to want to have more children.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of Americans who said they were planning on being parents in the next five years also say the pandemic has made them less likely to want to have children.
  • Shrinking support network: Nearly 3 in 10 say they are less likely to have kids now because they are unsure if childcare will be available or affordable.

Home is Our (Suburban) Sanctuary – ‘Home’ brings the sense of safety, nurturing and togetherness, and no better time to reframe this than now. Purchasing new homes and remodeling current homes are on the horizon.

  • Gen Z/Millennials are ready to ‘nest’: 33% say the pandemic has made them more likely to buy a home in the next six months (29% Gen Z). One-quarter say they can’t wait to own their own home; likely driven by a high degree of “cabin fever.”
  • Current homeowners – more than one in five (22%) say “being home so much has sparked my interest to renovate my home”
  • Suburbia splash? 30% of Americans have re-evaluated their need for space and 40% of urbanites have considered moving to a less densely populated area of the country.
    • Over one-third (37%) say the pandemic has made them want to live in a rural area more than 21 miles away from a major city; meanwhile less than a fifth (19%) say they want to live in a major metropolitan city.
  • House hunting goes virtual: 31% of Americans have virtually toured homes online since the start of the pandemic.
  • 1 in 4 renters want to be owners; yet 26% say they are glad they are renting so they have the flexibility to move once the pandemic ends.

Financial Future – Many Americans are dipping into their retirement savings; nearly a quarter (22%) have had to because of the pandemic, especially Americans with an annual household income of more than $75K, as well as urbanites (35% vs 31% suburban/rural).

Reopening of America: Northeast coast may hold the key – protecting team members and society at large seems to be the mantra of the Northeast coast (NYC, NJ, CT, MA). These urban centers along the northeast coast have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and business decision-makers (BDMs) in those regions are heeding caution: once restrictions are lifted, these areas are still likely to remain closed until the virus is gone. Could they be the bellwether for an effective (and safe) reopening?

  • Northeast BDMs are taking the most conservative approach to reopening; 40% say their business is planning to change to telework options even after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. The same was asked of BDMs in the Midwest (26%), South (26%) and West (24%).
    • Urban (26%) and suburban (20%) BDMs are taking more precautions than rural (8%) BDMs with regards to planning to remain closed.

*Less time at the office could mean more time for family-friendly activities near home, like fishing and boating.

Big Box Retail Love 70% of Americans miss shopping in stores and specifically big-box retail. Wal-Mart (80%) would be missed the most if they closed for good, followed by Target (69%) and Best Buy (65%). However, not surprisingly, two-thirds of Americans say it’s safer to buy big items online right now, making a strong online presence incredibly critical, even for small retailers. Big box electronics are the draw to get consumers back shopping in-stores, with 66% saying they will return to big box stores within three months.


Distrust and fear are still real for many Americans as they prefer to stay indoors although many states have eased stay-at-home orders. Keep offering fishing and boating products online, as two-thirds of Americans still agree it’s safer to buy online right now. Consider creating “how-to” videos for complex gadgets and equipment with step-by-step instructions on how to assume/use a product. Focus on the core family when marketing/advertising products and services; most families (80%) seem content with their family unit “as is.”

RBFF receives these weekly consumer insights from its partners at Colle McVoy. This study was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,030 U.S. adults between May 8 - 10, 2020.

Stay tuned to the RBFF Blog for additional weekly consumer insights related to COVID-19.