Data Under the Tree: Part 2 (Star or Angel? Multi-colored or white lights?)

12/21/2009 11:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today, we look again at the data under our virtual tree.

What cultural artifact is most likely to top an American Christmas tree?

The answer is an angel, narrowly. 44% of Americans report having an angel atop their Christmas tree and 38% report a star. Interestingly, 12% report having something else on top of their tree.

Only in the Western United States are star and angel running head to head. In the other regions, the traditional angel tops the star by 7-8 points.

African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to have starts atop their trees, while whites are more likely to have angels (48%-angels, 34%-stars).

Moving on to decorative lights, we asked Americans what color Christmas lights they prefer to decorate with. Overall, 56% said they preferred to decorate with multi-colored lights, while 33% prefered to decorate with white lights. Every region prefers mutli-colored lights over white lights, but there is a significant SES (household income and education) dimmension to the data.

The tipping point for white lights is at households making $75,000 or more and among college grads. The data here is fascinating.

Households making under $35,000 (68% multi-colored, 20% white lights), $35,000-$50,000 (62% multi-colored, 33% white lights) and $50,000-$75,000 (63% multi-colored, 29% white lights) prefer multi-colored Christmas lights, while households making $75,000-$100,000 (50% white lights, 40% multi-colored lights) and $100,000+ (50% white lights, 44% multi-colored lights) prefer white lights by a narrow margin.

We see the same with educational attainment, as preference for white lights increases by education (16% among high school drop outs, 27% among high school grads, 31% among some college and 44% among college graduates.

So, when you're out looking at neighborhood lights, note the decorative color pallete and you should be able to estimate the SES of the neighborhood and household income of its inhabitants.

Tomorrow we'll look at the popularity of Christmas movies.