PBS – Who Contributes?


There has been a lot of talk about PBS and its funding during this year’s presidential race.  Mitt Romney stated during the first presidential debate that if elected he plans to cut funding to PBS.  This was a hot discussion topic as the network, which receives both public and private funding, is a popular and beloved television destination by people all around the country.   The network carries not only Big Bird’s program Sesame Street and other educational content for children but also adult-targeted shows such as Downtown Abbey and Frontline.  Its programming caters to multiple audiences.

How much do people care about PBS?  Who contributes?  Where are the PBS stations located?

Funding for PBS comes from a variety of sources – station membership dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, government agencies, foundations, corporations, and private citizens.   The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a non-profit corporation funded by the US federal government to promote public broadcasting.   In 2012, it received$ 445.2 million from the federal government.  That funding was distributed among multiple sources including $222.36 million for direct grants to local public television stations to help keep them running.   Almost 60% of local stations receive funding from private citizen, sponsors, and corporations.  Where are the PBS stations located?  You can seem the here:

People all around the country personally contribute to PBS.  We don’t know how much – but we do know a lot of people contribute – and they come from a variety of walks of life.  About 4.2% of all US adults contribute at least something to PBS.  The people most likely to contribute live along the eastern seaboard, in the Midwest, and along the west coast.   One of the ZIP codes with the highest likelihood of contributing to PBS is 06883, which is located in Weston, CT.  Their index for the likelihood of contributing to PBS is 293 meaning they are 2.93 times more likely than the average American to contribute to PBS.   The residents in this ZIP code have a median household income of 187,006.  The residents are more likely to lean liberal than conservative.  They have an index of 148 for being very liberal and 160 for being somewhat liberal.

Many believe that contributions to PBS are typically made by liberals but conservative neighborhoods also have a high likelihood of contributing to PBS.  For example, 02642 and 86336 each have an index of 248 for contributing to PBS meaning a resident there is 2.48 times more likely than the average American to contribute to PBS.  However the likelihood of someone identifying themselves as  very conservative or  somewhat conservative in those neighborhoods is over 130 meaning they are 1.3 times more likely than the average American to be conservative.

What type of person is most likely to contribute to PBS?  What type is least likely?  We can use Tapestry Segmentation to classify consumers.  Esri, a geographic information systems company which also does data analysis, developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.  The tapestry segments with an index of 200 or higher – meaning they are 2 times more likely than the average American to contribute to PBS – are Connoisseurs, Silver and Gold, The Elders, Top Rung, and Urban Chic.   The median household income of these tapestry segments ranges from $42,293 to $182,041.

Urban Chic residents, for example, are professionals who live a sophisticated, exclusive lifestyle. More than half of these households are married-couple families, similar to the US proportion. Fewer than half of them have children. Unlike the United States, there is a smaller proportion of single parents and a higher proportion of singles and shared households. The median age of 42.7 years is older than the US median of 37 years, while the diversity index of 48 is lower than the US figure of 61.  Their median household income is $82,524. They are well-educated; more than half of residents aged 25 years and older hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree

Not everyone contributes to PBS – either because they can’t financially or they aren’t interested.  Residents of Home Town, Rooted Rural, Rural Bypasses, Rustbelt Traditions, and Southern Satellites tapestry segments are ½ as likely to contribute to PBS as the average American.   Many of these residents live in the Rural II Urbanization neighborhoods.  Rural II residents live in rural farm areas; the rest live in the country or in small villages and work in mining or manufacturing.

Why Does this Matter?

PBS is a network that is beloved by many Americans.  Understanding who supports it financially and where they are can aid in the discussion of how to keep the network, programs and local stations funded.  A key concern of many proponents of PBS is keeping the content available throughout the country.  Shows like Sesame Street and Frontline will continue to be produced regardless of public funding to PBS.  The key is ensuring those educational programs can be seen throughout the country.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at www.esri.com/data or to learn more about Esri in general, go to www.esri.com.

Leave a Reply