Mexican-born: A Glimpse Into The Future Of The Market

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.

  • There were approximately 11.67 million Mexican-born immigrants living in the U.S. in 2011 (Source: Census ACS)
  • Represents 22.4% of the overall Hispanic population

  • Represents 34.7% of the entire Hispanic population that is “Mexican” – i.e. 65% of Mexicans in the U.S. were born here

  • This is down from 12.7 million Mexican-born immigrants living in the U.S. in 2008 – the Mexican-born population decreased by 1 million, or 8.1% over the three-year period of 2008-2011.
  • Mexican-born population dropped by 220,038 from 2008 to 2011 in some traditional Hispanic markets (Source: Census ACS)
  • Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Phoenix
  • Mexican-born population grew significantly in other nontraditional Hispanic markets from 2000 to 2011 (Source: Census ACS)
  • There are currently 455,470 Mexican-born immigrants living in southern markets, including Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Greensboro-Winston-Salem, N.C.

  • There are currently 345,697 Mexican-born immigrants livings in Midwestern markets, including Minneapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; and Omaha, Neb.
  • The Mexican immigrant population entering the U.S. from 2000 to 2008 was more educated, included more females, and had more skilled laborers than those of previous immigration waves (Source: Muniz, 2011)

  • 71% of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. used the Internet in the last 30 days (Experian Simmons, 2012)

  • 90% watched Spanish TV and 59% watched English TV in the last 30 days (Experian Simmons, 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.

4 comments about "Mexican-born: A Glimpse Into The Future Of The Market ".
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  1. K Cruz from Ventana Media Group, December 6, 2012 at 11:20 a.m.

    Nice article, very elementary in your interpretation of the Mexican community, whether last 20 years or 2008-2012 immigration to the U.S.

    I would use this info in a Mass Communication class but not for an Agency or Marketing group. This style of writing is a show me the numbers without Cultural Intelligence behind it.

    Thank you for the effort to the future of the Mexican consumer in the U.S.

  2. Jose Villa from Sensis, December 6, 2012 at 12:29 p.m.

    K Cruz - thanks for the comment. My short piece was aimed at looking at demographic and behavioral trends, not cultural intelligence or insights. However, I know any type of forecasting is a dangerous business, so I welcome a spirited debate! Saludos - Jose

  3. Rafael Vega from Empirical Praxis Consulting, December 6, 2012 at 3:43 p.m.

    Thanks for the article, Jose.

    I'm please that you highlighted some of the non-traditional markets where Latinos have begun to penetrate.

    I have a question regarding the impact that the findings that suggest that new immigrants are consuming both Spanish and English TV contents: How do you see Spanish language TV responding to this emerging phenomena? Will they surrender that growing segment or will they finally begin to diversify their programming to include Bilingual contents and less of their blessed, all-consuming 'telenovelas'?

    Great thanks, feliz navidad!

    ~ rafa

  4. Zeph Snapp from Not Just SEO, December 6, 2012 at 5:06 p.m.

    What an interesting perspective Jose,
    It looks like our job is going to get a lot harder over the next few years. Then again, the harder it is, the more companies are going need agencies with the experience and vision to address this market. You of course are already there, we are just taking our first baby steps.
    Thanks for the article, it made me think for sure.

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