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SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 109




C. Jeanne Hill, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX.

Sonja B. Langley, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View,



One’s membership in an ethnic subculture is a significant factor in an individual’s socialization as a consumer; however, behaviors are also influenced by one’s generational cohort. We propose that Generation Y, perhaps the most open-minded generation of consumers, might be more influenced as consumers by their age than they are by their ethnic background. The researchers in this investigation explored the proposition that the college age generation is less stereotypical than its predecessors in its shopping behavior and, as such, will exhibit more similarity in coupon use. The results of this study provide at least some evidence that the coupon-related behaviors of Generation Y are perhaps more age dependent than gender or ethnicity based. Our findings suggest that the expected homogeneity of this segment of the population, at least in terms of coupon use, is rapidly converging but has not yet been fully realized.

SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 110


The Promotion Marketing Association Coupon Council conducts a Coupon General Usage study each year for its members and issues a press release to the public presenting its most important findings. In September of this year (2007) the PMA reported that 71% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 used coupons, an increase of 2% over the 2000 usage rate. The study also found that for this age group coupons were most influential in purchase decisions for the following products: groceries (54%), restaurants (46%), electronics (37%) and clothing (31%). For the last two product categories, the percentage of 18-24 year-olds that was influenced by a coupon was significantly greater than for that of the general population.

In a second reported finding by the PMA from a 2006 Internet survey, 78% of primary grocery shoppers said they started using coupons when they moved out on their own and 54% when they were in college. Since many individuals in this age group are college students, and coupon use has been found to be heavier among the more highly educated (Bawa and Shoemaker, 1987; Cronovich et al., 1997), greater research focus on this segment of the market seems warranted.


Male/Female Dichotomy In addition to age-related findings, the PMA (2007) also reported that 86% of the U.S. population used coupons in 2006--85% of females and 69% of males. While Bakewell and Mitchell, in 2004, lamented the lack of focus on male shopping behavior in the research literature, Harmon and Hill (2003) found younger men gaining parity with females in their openness to behaviors historically gender-typed as female, including shopping and coupon use.

SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 111 The need for coupon distributors to appeal differently to men may be even less worthwhile when focusing on the younger generation of men who will make up the bulk (about 78 million) of shoppers in the near future. Generation Y, as it is generally known, includes young people roughly born between 1977 and 1994, making them 13years of age in 2007. They are the most diverse generation in history and are largely believed to be the most unbiased in their opinions. These opinions include a greater acceptance of diversity and any accompanying differences in lifestyle choices plus a less stereotypical viewpoint of gender roles. As a result of findings such as these, perhaps, there is less need to focus exclusively on differences in male behavior and to look for commonalities among the two groups as well.

Ethnic Dichotomy

Several researchers have gone beyond demographics in attempting to explain ethnic differences in coupon use. Multiple studies have found that African-Americans are less likely to use coupons than are Caucasians (e.g., Green, 1995, 1996; Kashani and Quelch, 1990; Nieto 1995; Yovovich, 1981). Yovovich (1981) found the low coupon redemption rate among African-Americans related in part to a negative image of coupon users and in part to a lack of availability of coupon information in black media. Green (1996) found African-American women less coupon prone, less value conscious, and more time conscious, leading them to use coupons less.

An early study by Feldman and Star (1968) found that Caucasian consumers were more concerned about receiving their money’s worth, while African-Americans placed a greater emphasis on the prestige of the product. Both the Green (1995) and Kashani and Quelch (1990) studies suggest African-Americans view coupon use negatively, seeing it as a sign of an inability to pay full price.

Until recently, companies have largely ignored the AfricanAmerican segment of the market (Whigham-Desir, 1997). However, with their increasing economic power, African-Americans are being given a higher priority in marketing efforts. Proctor & Gamble SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 112 (Elliott, 2004), for one, has recently formed promotional alliances with a leading voice in black radio, the National Underground Freedom Center and the United Negro College Fund, placing coupon inserts tailored to black consumers in Sunday newspapers.

It has been generally recognized in the literature that one’s membership in an ethnic subculture is a significant factor in an individual’s socialization as a consumer (Bush et al., 1999; Delener and Neelankavil, 1990). In a study conducted by Dan Coleman Advertising in 1992 (Singh et al., 2003), African-American youth, as a consequence of being part of a subculture, displayed greater patronage of specific stores and product brands than young people in other ethnic groups.

Thus, African-Americans may differ in the extent to which they are influenced by their unique socialization experiences.

However, as noted above, behaviors are also influenced by one’s generational cohort. Thus, Generation Y, perhaps the most openminded generation of consumers, might be more influenced as consumers by their age peers than they are by their ethnic background.

Research Questions

The researchers in this investigation explored the proposition that the college age generation is less stereotypical than its predecessors in its shopping behavior and, as such, will exhibit more similarity in coupon use. Store loyalty cards were included as they are often used as a more convenient substitute for coupons. The following

two questions were put forth in this study:

Research Question 1: Does coupon and store loyalty card use vary by gender among Generation Y undergraduate college students?

Research Question 2: Does coupon and store loyalty card use vary between African-American and Caucasian undergraduate college students?

SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 113 This study is exploratory in nature. The researchers are interested in determining if the questions above have merit and indicate a larger study to be warranted.


The study reported here is an investigation of the store loyalty card and coupon use of the undergraduate college student segment of the population. In addition to looking at the types of retailers in which students are most likely to use loyalty cards or coupons, we also looked at the sources of coupons most likely to reach students.

A questionnaire was developed to measure the extent of student use of coupons during the prior three month period. Question one asks respondents to indicate the frequency with which they used coupons from various sources, including on or in products, newspapers, direct mail, in-store, fundraising coupon booklet, and the Internet. A second question asks how often coupons were used to purchase products from grocery stores, clothing/shoe stores, department stores, discount stores, electronic/computer stores, home improvement stores, food delivery services, fast food restaurants, other restaurants, dry cleaners, the Internet, and auto maintenance retailers. Students were also asked to indicate their ethnic background and gender for comparison purposes.

A convenience sample of 222 students was drawn from two universities—the African-American sample was drawn from a historically African-American university in the Southwest and the Caucasian sample came from a large university in Tennessee. The final sample consisted of 118 African-American respondents and 104 Caucasian respondents, with 122 males and 100 females. Because the sample was not representative of all undergraduate college students, the findings cannot be generalized to the larger student population, SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 114 although the information can serve as an exploratory investigation into this segment of the market.

Simple frequency distributions were calculated comparing male/female and African-American/Caucasian coupon behavior, with Chi-square analysis used to test for significant differences between groups.


Comparison of Coupon Use by Gender of College Students Overall, we found only three major differences between males and females in this study. These include the use of drugstore loyalty cards, coupons in clothing/shoe stores, and coupons for auto maintenance services.

When we looked at differences between male and female students’ use of store loyalty cards (see Table 1), we found only one significant difference. More females (21% vs. 11%) usually/always use drugstore loyalty cards for purchases. There were no differences in the use of grocery store, bookstore, or other (e.g., discount store) store loyalty cards or coupon booklets such as those used in fundraising activities. Perhaps drugstores may be more often frequented by female college students due to the merchandise that is sold there, particularly cosmetics and other beauty products, feminine hygiene products and prescription drugs unique to females. Larger expenditures in drugstores might lead women to become more aware of drugstore loyalty cards and increase their motivation to take advantage of these offers.


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ax2 = 12.327; df=4; sig.=.01 A/U = always/usually; S/R = sometimes/rarely; N = never __________________________________________________________________________

We next looked at the frequency of coupon use in the prior three month period (see Table 2) when purchasing products from various venues and found two instances of significant gender differences: The use of coupons for purchases in clothing/shoe stores and for auto maintenance services. Significantly more females (21% vs. 7%) usually/always used coupons and rarely/sometimes (42% vs.

25%) used them when purchasing products from clothing/shoe stores, while more males (40% vs. 23%) never used coupons in clothing/shoe stores in the previous three month period. It may be said that females place a higher value on their appearance: their clothing, shoes, hairstyle and accessories. In general, females spend more of their disposable income on items such as clothing, shoes, and the like than males, but females also like a bargain.

SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 116


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aX2=22.24; df=5;sig.=.001; bx2=13.959;df=5;sig.=.01 A/U=always/usually; S/R=sometimes/rarely; N=never;NP =never purchased ________________________________________________________________________________________________

For auto maintenance services, more females usually/always use coupons (33% vs. 15%) when purchasing these services, while more males never use them (32% vs. 16%). It is conceivable that males identify with a traditionally male gender-typed service like auto maintenance, and it is probable that males do not want to appear “unmanly” when patronizing such establishments. Although females recognize the necessity of regularly maintaining a car, they are apt to search for lower prices because they tend not to identify with this category of service in ways that males do.

While only marginally significant (p =.09), it is interesting to note that more males in our study never used coupons for online purchases (35% vs. 25%); however, more females never purchased online products during the prior three month period (42% vs. 28%).

Male Internet purchasing behavior may differ from that of females in what is purchased. Coupons tend not to be offered for products frequently purchased by male college students—items such as electronics, games and downloadable music. Although females certainly also purchase these products, their overwhelming choice of Internet purchases tends to be directed at clothing, shoes, and SBAJ: 8(2): Hill & Langley: Gender and Ethnic …………….. 118 accessories. The use of coupons for clothing purchases was cited by the PMA study (2007) as greater than that of the general population.

As can be seen in Table 3, there were no significant gender differences found in this study for the source of coupons. Sources included coupons found in-store (on shelf or elsewhere), on/in-product, newspapers, direct mail, online, and other (telephone book, magazines, etc.). While a 2004 PMA study (2005) found more females (84%) than males (68%) used coupons they received from Sunday newspaper inserts, retailers’ fliers, magazines, in and on products, and online, the difference was not found for female and male college students in our study.

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No significant differences A/U=always/usually; S/R=sometimes/rarely; N=never _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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