While America celebrates many of its holidays by decorating and having parties with friends and family, Halloween is the celebration most commonly associated with costumes. But what do we really know about American’s celebrations? And, in particular, what are the most popular Halloween costumes? When it comes to scientific answers, the data is often sparse and widespread.

This year, AtmosFX has commissioned an independent study of the habits of Americans and Halloween: The Celebration Census. It’s a series of insightful, fun reports that look at our habits surrounding the festivities and celebrations of the country’s favorite holidays.

If you’ve been following our Celebration Census results, you know that people in the United States take their holidays seriously. Whether it’s candy, monsters, costumes, or decor, our holiday traditions bring us together while also setting us apart from the rest of the world.

3 in 4 Americans are the Halloween Equivalent of Scrooge

  • 25.9% Americans plan to wear a Halloween costume
  • 74.1% say they will not be dressing up for Halloween

All Dressed Up With Somewhere to Go?

Data collected from more than a thousand respondents suggest that 3 in 4 Americans older than 18 do not dress up for Halloween. Why be party-poopers?

Of course, what’s interesting is that, of the same group of respondents, only 22.8% plan to attend a Halloween party this year. So, we ask, where are the other 3.1% going in their costumes? Wherever it is – we salute you! You’re the select few carrying the Halloween torch – wearing a costume simply because it’s what you do on Halloween!

First Candy, Then Costumes

Costumes are big bucks. They (21.6%) are second only to candy (36.3%) when it comes to money spent for Halloween. According to the National Retail Federation, that 21.6% of Americans will spend $3.4 billion on costumes this year.

  • Candy (36.3%)
  • Costumes (23.2%)
  • None of the Above (21.6%)
  • Decorations (6.9%)
  • Party Supplies (6.8%)
  • Attractions or Events (4.0%)
  • Lights (1.2%)

What is this “None of the Above” Costume?

  • None of the Above (28.1%)
  • Superheroes and Villains (13.3%)
  • Horror (13.2%)
  • Fantasy (12.3%)
  • Animal (8.4%)
  • Cartoon (8.2%)
  • Meme (6.2%)
  • Science Fiction (5.6%)
  • Famous Person (4.7%)

When given the choice of the costume categories listed above, 18 to 24 year olds is the only group that didn’t select “None of the Above” as their first choice. They were nearly evenly split between Fantasy characters, Superheroes/Villains, Memes, and Cartoons.

Superheroes and Villains were the most popular costumes among the three youngest groups that made a selection – as well as the 65 and older crowd! For those in middle age (Age: 45-64), Fantasy and Cartoons were the favorites.

Men, Women, and Costumes

You might expect more men to refuse to wear costumes but, of our respondents, women were less likely to dress up. There were also a few, other small differences in gender, especially when we remove None of the Above. Females slightly more likely to select Horror, Cartoon, and Superhero. Males were more likely to choose Animals or Objects.

With costumes on everyone’s mind, online shopping site Rakuten polled 400 Japanese men and women in their 20s to find out what types of Halloween outfits they liked the most.

As it turns out, the costumes men say they like to see women wear are quite different to what women like when they dress up on the holiday. According to their results, Japanese women like to play up the horror aspect of Halloween, with almost half of the 200 female respondents saying they’ve dressed up as some sort of spooky character in the past.

Their study went on to show, however; that women are more concerned about their costumes fitting in with their group of friends than they are about what men prefer. Interestingly, the study didn’t ask what costumes women would prefer to see men wearing.

Really, it is not just about the costumes. Halloween is about being creative with your costume, engaging with others. For children, that might be trick-r-treating. For adults, it’s costume parties. But both have something uniquely in common: It is a time where people build community through the creativity of their costumes. In many ways, when people celebrate Halloween, they’re really celebrating community.