According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 46 million people living in rural places. This vast swath of America includes farmers in Iowa, ranchers in Wyoming, retired acreage owners in upstate New York, horse owners in Georgia and hobby farmers in California.

A summary of the study, recently published on Forbes, describes these rural Americans “an acreage owner who doesn't derive significant income from their property. They own land for self-fulfillment, not profit. This excludes large landowners, such as farmers and ranchers.”

Most marketers identify rural lifestylers by demographic data, such as address, age, income and property size. We wanted to identify the different customer segments that make up today’s rural lifestyler and understand how they think, what they value and what they want most from their rural lifestyle experience.


Paulsen worked with Ogden Publications Inc., to conduct an online survey of Mother Earth News and Grit subscribers, two key magazines that target the sustainable living and rural lifestyle markets. We received 720 completed responses, representing a broad cross-section of rural property owners across the United States.

This survey was conducted prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, key insights regarding customer segmentation, rural lifestyle sentiment, brand preference and equipment knowledge remain relevant. Based on economic conditions resulting from the pandemic, it is reasonable to assume that purchase intent will change in 2020.

Identifying Five Key Rural Lifestyle Segments

A cluster analysis of demographic characteristics, attitudes, activities, media preferences and purchase intent revealed five key rural lifestyle customer segments:

  • Young Affluents
  • Older Inactives
  • Retired Independents
  • Middle-aged Connectors
  • Young Learners

Each segment shares a love for the land and finds personal fulfillment in rural living, but there are significant differences in why they live in the country and how they actively shape their world.

Rural Americans have one defining characteristic—a desire to live beyond the city limits. However, it would be a mistake to use a one-size fits all marketing approach to reach this large and diverse audience.

Rural Americans are not all the same and, therefore, require unique marketing and messaging strategies to connect with them. By understanding the characteristics of the five key customer segments identified in this survey, marketers can create specific content, develop new products and services, optimize their media investment, attract and retain customers, and build brand loyalty.

If you would like to receive the full Rural Lifestyle Survey report, please complete the form below or contact Sara Steever at