The 2020 Census data was released last month with the banner headline that the future of the United States is diverse and multi-racial. Driving that future is the U.S. Hispanic population. We are already completely diverse and multi-racial, making up the country’s second largest and fastest-growing population segment. We account for 51% of population growth in America.
It is our diversity and multi-racial makeup, however, that often obscures the fact that we are already a powerhouse in the United States.
Despite the broad range of our demographic differences, whether related to race, age, religion, class, political beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation, we are united by our belief in progress. We are equally united in our identity as American — in fact, 67% of Hispanics are U.S. born, another 13% are naturalized citizens, and others remaining are on the path to citizenship.
Latinos and Consumer Buying Power
But our core power is economic. Corporate America please take note: Hispanics are driving growth. As consumers. As business owners. The potential power in the future is exponentially larger.
If U.S. Hispanics were a nation, our GDP would be 2.6 trillion dollars. At a 7% growth rate, that means we are growing faster than China. Hispanics account for 68% of consumer growth in the auto industry. Those percentages are consistent across industries, particularly those where youth is an important consumer segment. For example, in the digital gaming industry Hispanics represent 68% of new usage and in sports they account for the majority of audience growth.
Buying power of U.S. Hispanics is equally stunning. Latinos are responsible for $1.7 trillion buying power and 72% of real consumption growth. And when you consider that 86% of all new businesses in the past 10 years were launched by Hispanics and 8 out of 10 new startups were launched by Hispanics, you can see the steady upward trajectory.
Latinos and Education
The new Census data has also blown to bits some lingering stereotypes. Wrong assumptions that Hispanics don’t speak English, have less education and therefore lower-skilled jobs, simply do not apply. More than 80% of Hispanics are English speakers. In fact, only 5% of Hispanics don’t speak English at all and they are either the older generations or brand-new arrivals who are motivated to learn the language quickly.
When it comes to education, the number of Hispanic adults earning undergraduate and graduate degrees has increased by 73% in the past 10 years. That’s more than two and a half times the rate of everyone else. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Hispanics are landing higher-skilled jobs, too. The Census shows upward mobility here, too. Jobs in management, business, the sciences, and arts are up by 21%. Computer science by 13%. In healthcare, by 18%.
With the facts telling such a clear and positive story, how is it that Hispanics are still so underrepresented, misrepresented, and undervalued?
Latino Representation in Media and the Workforce
When it comes to representation, where are the Latinos? They are only 3.5% of Fortune 500 boards. Despite making up 29% of all the audiences in the U.S., Hispanics are just over half a percent of all primetime TV characters, and the numbers are equally abysmal behind the camera and across development and production. In fact, Hispanic representation across all media is only 5.5%.
When it comes to earning a living wage, Hispanics are still at a disadvantage. Hispanic men earn 15% less in hourly wages than white men. Latinas are the lowest paid segment in the country. Hispanics make up 17% of the labor force, but only 4.3% find their way into executive roles.
Misrepresentation makes matters worse. It creates a bigger gap between perception and reality. Among other things, it helps perpetuate the structural obstacles that stand in the way of progress.
Takeaways for Advertisers and Employers
So what does this all mean? If you are a company, the current data should be a good reality check. If Hispanics aren’t in your top growth strategies, you are putting your future at risk. If Hispanics aren’t part of your recruitment strategy, you are making it hard to understand your consumers and you’ll likely struggle to build an optimal workforce. Furthermore, if you don’t support and advance your Hispanic employees as they rise through your ranks, you are creating problems for your corporate strategy. If you are not investing in the Hispanic community, you are ultimately putting brand consideration and loyalty at risk.
The same thing applies to the agency world. Look at the numbers. If you aren’t hiring Latinos, if you aren’t reaching out to Hispanic consumers with an understanding of cultural nuance, you, too are putting your business at risk. Even more, you have the ability, even responsibility, to help shape culture, smash stereotypes, and align perception with reality. You have the ability to make representation matter.
If you are Hispanic, working in this world, be sure to take someone with you as you rise. Be a mentor, open doors, use your voice. Now is the time to put a real stake in the ground. Now is the time to make the difference, to dig deep and capitalize on all of the progress that has been made.
Corporate America always gives tremendous support to the Hispanic community when there is a crisis, a disaster, a tragedy. But when the immediate problem fades, so does the attention and support. We need you to engage with us differently. We need relationships that are proactive, not just reactive. Help us remove the obstacles to growth that we still face by investing in the community in areas like education, career development, health and wellness, and gender equity. Your consumer base will not only grow faster but your brands will also strengthen their affinity with Hispanics, the most dynamic segment. Hispanic progress is American progress. Together, we can write the next chapter so that everyone wins.