Do You Know Your Clients’ Tribe?

‘Tis the political season, wherein the country is sliced and diced into segments: blue vs. red, male and female voting blocs, and dozens of different demographic groups. So perhaps there is no better time to crack pollster John Zogby’s latest book, We Are Many, We Are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in 21st Century America.

It’s a fascinating look at 11 different subsections of American adults based on an extensive survey launched in 2009 where Zogby, rather than relying on the current media constructs listed above, actually asked 8,000+ respondents to define themselves.

Credit: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

Credit: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

You may be wondering why real estate pros should care. But I found the book to be not only a potentially powerful marketing tool, but also a concise way to better understand how these segments of America feel about and interact with the housing market, their communities, and the American Dream at large. So, here are Zogby’s tribes (in ascending order in terms of their approximate share of the overall population) and some of the relevant housing data he reports in the book.

The Outsiders (5.8 percent of the adult population)

It’s a good thing these guys are such as small percentage, because man, are they sad. Zogby defines them as a cynical lot who have been dealt setbacks and don’t expect anything all that great to happen to them. They also aren’t strongly affiliated with institutions or other communities.

  • Only half own their own homes, the lowest percentage of any of the groups
  • 37% live in the suburbs, 24% are in small cities, 21% in large cities and 18% are rural
  • Nearby amenity to look for: privacy. They lead all the tribes in terms of self-identifying as individualists, and they don’t rank any the tribe-building activities Zogby asked about (festivals, school events, places of worship, etc.) very high at all

The Self-Perfectionists (8.3%)

This is an individualistic group concerned with improving themselves and not focused on community events or entertaining. They have the highest percentage of single, never-married adults (41%) of all tribes.

  • They have the second-lowest concentration of home ownership, at 62%
  • 33% live in the suburbs, 28% in large cities, 23% in small cities, and 16% are rural
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Food co-ops and farmers markets. Well over half of them pay close attention to the environmental impact of their food and care about locally produced food

The Happy Hedonists (11%)

This group wants to live life to the fullest and enjoy themselves in the process. Also, they’re not afraid to spend some money in the effort.

  • 61% own their own home
  • More live in large cities (36%) than any other tribe; meanwhile 33% live in suburbs, 20% in small cities and 11% live in rural areas (the lowest of any other tribe)
  • Nearby amenity to look for: gyms and good restaurants (they lead the pack in emphasizing the importance of good food and exercise)

The Adventurists (12.2%)

These guys lead the pack in terms of having the highest percentage of members in the “investor class” and are more likely than most tribes to consider themselves social networkers.

  • 64% are homeowners
  • While 35% are in the suburbs, they are second-highest in terms of those who live in big cities (31%); 18% are in small cities and 16% are rural
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Opportunity for adventure! They’re the most likely of any tribe to want to dive to the bottom of the ocean, and they’re tied for the top in terms of the percentage who have an active passport.

The One True Path (13.4%)

Zogby defines this group as the new face of American Evangelicals—conservative and religious, but more concerned with social justice than traditional marriage, say.

  • 65 percent own their own homes
  • 36% are suburban, 27% are in large cities, 20% are rural and 18% live in small cities
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Opportunities for family connection. While only one in four have children living at home, this group places more value on family than any other tribe (translating to a need for guest bedrooms, formal entertainment space, and/or granny flats, perhaps?)

The Creators (14.5%)

These artsy, free-spirited bohemians are eager to forge their own path to happiness and personal fulfillment. Perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, Zogby says “Regardless of where they live physically, their minds and hearts belong on the Upper East Side.”

  • 66 percent own their own homes
  • While 32% reside in suburbs, a relatively high percentage live in big cities (27%). You’ll find 24% in smaller cities and 17% in rural areas
  • Nearby amenity to look for: 70% say music festivals strengthen their tribal bonds, though they also dig farmer’s markets

The Persistents (19.4%)

These folks are mostly likely to name a tragedy as the defining factor in their lives, and what binds them together is their ability to persevere beyond it.

  • 2 in 3 own their own homes
  • 36% live in suburbs, 23% live in big cities, 21% in rural areas and 19% in small cities
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Charities or support groups that can help them connect with others who define themselves as survivors; in forming interpersonal bonds, 71% look for such qualities in others

Go With the Flow (23.5%)

Members of this group seek balance. Zogby notes they “say what they mean and mean what they say. And they say it gently.” Interestingly, they’re least likely of all the tribes to say the American Dream is dead (12%).

  • 62% own their own homes
  • 33% are found in big cities, another 33% in the suburbs, 20% are in smaller cities, and 14% are rural
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Dependable, stable chain stores. This group ranks very low in terms of wanting to be the first to try something new in their neighborhoods

The God Squad (24.9 percent)

Zogby defines this group as “relying on God, family, and traditional values to give them some stability and an explanation for their world gone sour.” Interestingly, two in five say that, in a fantasy world, they would still be living in their current home.

  • 68% own their own home
  • Most (33%) live in the suburbs, though a higher percentage of them (24%) live in rural areas than almost every other tribe. 23% are in large cities and 20% live in small ones
  • Nearby amenity to look for: A place of worship (83% place special importance on this feature in their lives)

The Dutifuls (26.9%)

These folks follow the laws of society closely, living simply and according to the Golden Rule. They’re also highly oriented to family and the value of authenticity.

  • 71% own their own homes
  • They have the highest percentage of suburbanites at 38%, with the rest more or less equally distributed among the other three living environments
  • Nearby amenity to look for: easy access to family-friendly getaways. From the range of tribe-building activities Zogby asked about, they get the most satisfaction from family vacations, and are more likely than any other tribe to spend unexpected money on family members

Land of the Free (33.2%)

This group counts the largest number of veterans of all the tribes. They’re more than willing to step up and fight for “truth, justice, and the American way” (though Zogby notes they’re most likely to feel the American Dream is on its last legs).

  • They have the highest percentage of home owners at 73%
  • 38% live in the suburbs, 22% in rural areas, 21% in small cities and 19% in big cities
  • Nearby amenity to look for: Opportunities to age in place. They are the oldest of the tribes, and they value their independence

What do you think? See your clients (or yourself) in any of these groups?

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. This is interesting, the tribe and how it relates to home ownership.