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Halloween Data: Trick or Treating in Decline?

Halloween seems like it’s just around the corner, but will kids be trick-or-treating around your block? The October 31st holiday invites costumes, candy and creativity for youths and adults. Yet, while children playing dress up and collecting candy sounds like a timeless tradition, the number of Americans that celebrate Halloween have been decreasing. Halloween data from the National Retail Federation looks at the Halloween costs and customs of Americans from 2011-2015. Research from the National Retail Federation (NRF) surveys almost 7,000 Americans about Halloween activities. America’s Halloween festivities encompasses many decorative, scary and playful traditions. But despite this festive season, traditional Halloween practices that have been declining since 2011 including handing out candy, carving pumpkins, taking children trick or treating, and visiting a haunted attraction.

Halloween Data from 2011-2015

To see the estimated number of Americans per tradition, scroll over each graph.

Overall, Americans have been fickle about celebrating Halloween. Nevertheless, the year 2012 represents a positive tick for many Halloween customs. However, the year did not mark any major motion pictures, such as dress up favorites like Harry Potter, Minions, and Frozen. Instead, it was a traditional year of princesses and superheroes among kids. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay comments, “Hollywood and pop culture both have a tremendous impact on how adults and their children decide to dress the part each Halloween.” On the other hand, among adults, one in ten participants in 2012 were reported to dress up as a politician with November marking the Romney vs Obama election.

Yet, dressing up isn’t the only Halloween practice. Celebrating Halloween, in regards to this Halloween survey, includes a variety of major practices:

  • Dress up
  • Dress up a pet
  • Throw/attend a party
  • Hand out candy
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Visit a haunted house
  • Take children trick or treating
  • Decorate your home/yard

While handing out candy seems to be the most dramatic decline, the lack of trick or treaters initiates this trend. In other words, if children aren’t trick or treating in the neighborhood, homeowners will hand out less candy. As time continues, Americans will buy less and less candy for trick or treaters, or not participate at all.

From 2011-2015, Halloween data indicates the number of Americans handing out candy doubles the number of Americans taking their children trick or treating.

What could explain the decline of trick or treating? Perhaps it’s a population issue; less kids in the trick or treating age group now that the Baby Boomer’s children have grown up. Or maybe there’s a greater concern for stranger danger than in the past. However, this seems unlikely with the growth of mobile phone access among young teens. Instead, perhaps it’s the format of this survey. The question asks if parents take children trick or treating. Perhaps more children or young teens go trick or treating without supervision thanks to cell phones, location tracking and GPS. So maybe this tradition is just becoming more friend-oriented, rather than family-oriented.


How did you celebrate Halloween as a child? Is that activity now declining? What Halloween data did you find the most surprising?

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