The Hispanic population is diversifying and changing – Marketers take note

Brown University issued a report, Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans, in March that provides insights into the changing picture of Hispanic populations in the U.S. We summarized some of the study’s main findings and provide some recommendations on how to best use this information when developing communication programs.    

1. Socioeconomic advantages for some groups

Some Latino groups have an advantage, socioeconomically, over others. For example, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and South Americans are showing a socioeconomic advantage over Mexicans and Central Americans. All of the South American groups, especially Argentines and Venezuelans, have higher average incomes than the Hispanic average. This is despite the fact that most South Americans are foreign-born.

This new finding is important because marketers looking to target more affluent Hispanics have traditionally communicated in English with the more acculturated (second- and third-generation U.S. born) target. It has been the belief that recently-arrived Hispanics did not have significant socioeconomic power. However, this new finding dispels that belief and tells marketers they should add immigrants to the affluent Hispanic target and include Spanish-language communications in their outreach.

2. Other Latino population growth in top markets

It is well-known that Hispanics have historically concentrated in certain regions of the country. Mexicans live mostly on the West Coast, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York and Cubans in Florida. Although this is still very much the case, new immigrant groups are now settling in these regions and the growth of these dominant groups (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans) is decreasing. For example, New York’s Puerto Rican population has dropped from 40 percent of local area Latinos in 1990 to 31 percent. The Mexican population in New York City has grown from 4 percent in 1990 to 15 percent. Miami’s Hispanic population is now predominantly Cuban, but the makeup of this population has dropped from 62 percent to 55 percent in the last 20 years. By contrast, the South American population in Miami has increased from 12 percent to 18 percent.

For marketers, this should be a reminder of the ever-changing trends in the Hispanic population. What was true only 20 years ago could very well be different today. It also provides additional opportunities for companies seeking to target a specific segment of the market. For example, distributor Mexilink, an importer of well-known consumer products made in Mexico, owes its success to the nostalgia of Mexicans for the products with which they grew up. Mexilink imports well-known consumer products such as popular hair gel brands and snack items. Based on the results of this study, companies such as Mexilink should now consider increasing their targeting of New York City as a Mexican market for its products.

3. Hispanics are integrating

Another interesting finding from the study is that for the last 20 years most Hispanic groups, with the exception of Mexicans, have become more residentially integrated. In other words, Hispanics are increasingly moving to neighborhoods inhabited by non-Hispanics. The Mexican population is behind this trend likely due to the fact that Mexican communities tend to be large and have well-established roots in neighborhoods throughout the West Coast. Desegregation among other Hispanic groups is happening because smaller immigrant groups are moving to more integrated destinations that may not be known for being traditional Latino neighborhoods.

Knowing this, marketers must understand the cultural sensitivities and keep in mind that when they are directing their communications to non-Latino neighborhoods, they may in fact also be communicating (without knowing) with some Latinos who are integrated into the community. The significance is that local businesses and organizations should take a closer look at updated population data rather than assuming that previous population figures remain stagnant. Take, for example, a local healthcare district; it is important for the district to know if Hispanics are moving there in increasing numbers. The Hispanic population is generally 10 years younger than the non-Hispanic population (average age 26) and, therefore, more likely to be of childbearing age, having more children than non-Hispanics (average of 3.4 versus 2 for non-Hispanics). The Hispanic population is also more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, MTHFR polymorphism (a genetic mutation that affects women in pre-natal stage) and diabetes than non-Hispanics. These statistics appear to hold true regardless of the level of acculturation and country of origin. This is vital information that any healthcare district needs to guide its planning, programs and resources.

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