Recently, we were given something of a unique Hispanic marketing assignment: develop an integrated marketing campaign for a very specific Hispanic audience -- foreign-born Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. Why was this unique? In my experience, most clients look at the Hispanic market more broadly, rarely focusing on specific nationality segments. The exceptions are Latin American brands entering the U.S. targeting expatriates who are familiar with them. While most marketers understand that Mexicans make up the vast majority of Hispanics living in the U.S. -- 65% according to the 2011 Census data – they tend to look for the scale that means reaching the broader 92% of Hispanics including Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, Cubans, and South Americans.
While digging into the Mexican-born segment of the U.S. Hispanic population, I thought about what a unique segment it was. In many ways, you can look at the Mexican-born immigrant population of the U.S. as one of the most distinct groups within the diverse population of 51.9 million Hispanics (source: 2011, U.S. Census ACS) because they drive the market on a macro level. Mexican immigrants are a bellwether offering an indication of what the Hispanic population will look like in the future. The reason is simple – Mexican immigrants make up the anchors for the majority of the Hispanic population. They have historically comprised between 58 and 63% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. as well as the single largest immigrant group entering the U.S. for the last 30 years. Their profile, immigration patterns, and behavior not only represent the rough quarter of the overall Hispanic population today, but more importantly will directly impact and shape the second and third generation Mexicans who will make up the bulk of the Hispanic population in 10 to 20 years via their children.
Let’s start by looking at the data. Here are a few interesting statistics that caught our attention about Mexican-born immigrants living in the U.S. today with today meaning roughly 2008-2012.
Thinking about this data, we can start to infer some interesting trends about the future of the Hispanic market.
A More Diverse Hispanic Market
Mexicans have always made up the vast majority of the Hispanic population, consistently representing between 58 and 63% from 1980 to 2000. As the Pew Hispanic Center has detailed in their 2012 research on Mexican migration patterns, Mexican net migration to the U.S. likely peaked in the late 1990s. The drop in Mexican born population from 2008 to 2011 is one big indicator of that trend. Mexicans will likely continue to decrease as a%age of the Hispanic population, their position is likely to erode, and trend towards 50% of the Hispanic population. This means the Hispanic population of 2020-2030 will be more diverse, including larger%ages of Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, South Americans and Cubans. Changes in U.S. immigration policy could exacerbate this trend resulting in more Hispanic immigrants from countries other than Mexico, or reverse it in the case of wholesale amnesty that could increase immigration from Mexico in the future.
A Geographically Distributed Hispanic Population
Mexicans have been migrating to nontraditional states in the Southeast and Midwest – Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nebraska, etc. – and less to traditional areas in the border states and the Southwest. This is where they are likely to settle, and therefore have children. An increasing number of second generation Mexicans will acculturate in areas with smaller Hispanic populations. This indicates a Hispanic population that will only continue to grow rapidly in nontraditional markets. As Mexicans acculturate in areas of the U.S. with distinctly non-Hispanic cultures and traditions, expect to see the kind of cross-cultural fusion we have seen in the Southwest during the last 100 years in the Deep South and Midwest.
A More Skilled Hispanic Workforce
As the socioeconomic profile of Mexican immigrants has trended towards more educated, skilled workers – as opposed to unskilled laborers and agricultural workers – we can expect their children make a more rapid leap to higher education attainment levels and skilled labor force participation. The net effect will be a more skilled Hispanic labor force, compared to what we see today.
Digital and English Media Consumption
When we pulled Experian Simmons data for foreign-born Mexicans who are Spanish-dominant, we found some interesting media consumption behavior. Specifically, we found 71% were using the Internet and 59% were watching English TV with Spanish TV. This paints a very different media consumption picture from what is typically assumed for unacculturated or partially acculturated, Spanish-speaking Hispanics. Contrary to the popular portrait of immigrant Hispanic populations consuming only Spanish media and are limited Internet users – if connected at all – we see a more dynamic media behavior profile including significant digital media consumption and increased and more rapid adoption of English media. The trend here is clear – the Hispanic population of 2020-2030 will be heavily digital and more bilingual in their media consumption.
What does all this tell us? The big takeaway for me is that while the Hispanic population will continue to grow in the next 10-20 years, it will look very different from the Hispanic market we have known during the last 20 years. While this analysis is directional, it paints a very interesting picture of a Hispanic population that is more diverse and complex, dispersed more broadly across the U.S. exhibiting behavior very different from its predecessors.