Commentary

An In-Depth Look Into U.S. Hispanic Population

I’ve written a lot about how the U.S. Hispanic population is becoming a key driver of growth in multiple industries, from the auto industry to the financial markets to grocery stores.

Still, instead of continuing to look at Hispanic population growth at a national level, I decided to zoom in even further, and explore what the changing demographics within the U.S. Hispanic population itself means for advertising to this group.

According to research from Pew, Hispanics make up around 18% of the general population. However, this percentage is estimated to grow to about 27% by 2050, fuelled by an increasing number of U.S.-born Latinos. At the moment, the five states with the most Hispanics are: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois, in that order; collectively, they make up almost two-thirds of the overall US Hispanic population.

The fact that the majority of population growth in the near future is the result of growth within the native-born Hispanic population and not immigration is an important one for advertisers to keep in mind, as it indicates that younger generations of Hispanics will become a major cultural influence.

Pew estimates that around one quarter of the current Hispanic population is millennial, while one-third is considered Generation Z. That means that over half of the Hispanics living in the U.S. are below the age of 40.

For advertisers, this requires not only thinking about the needs of younger Hispanics and the type of messaging that will appeal best to them, but also an understanding of the platforms that these younger Hispanics are present on, and how they use them. For instance, while the demographic as a whole is fairly digitally savvy, people from different generations differ in how they use digital media. Millennials and Gen Zers think nothing of hopping between different social media platforms, apps or websites, while baby boomers tend to stick with traditional forms of media such as radio.

As the proportion of foreign-born Hispanics continues to fall, advertisers have to figure out what the differences are between reaching first, second, and later generations of Hispanic audiences. These differences could be a matter of technology -- for example, younger Hispanics are more likely to access the internet using their mobile phones, thus expanding the ways advertisers can reach them --  or a question of language. Second-generation Hispanics might be more receptive to ads that mix English and Spanish than those who are Spanish-dominant.

There’s also the question of content. Millennials and Gen Zers as a whole tend to be more socially conscious, and desire authenticity and transparency from the brands they shop -- qualities that, while not wholly unimportant, are not of as much concern to older generations.

Finally, the places where foreign-born Hispanics settle, and later generations of Hispanics are born, can have an impact on the way that Hispanic culture is expressed. For example, those who live in places with a large Hispanic population might feel more connected to their roots by virtue of the fact that they are surrounded by people with a similar heritage, as well as shops and cultural centers that reflect that heritage.

By contrast, those who live in places where there are fewer Hispanics might find it more difficult to maintain that connection thanks to, say, a lack of grocery stores selling traditional ingredients or people around them speaking Spanish on a daily basis.

The U.S. Hispanic population will continue growing for the foreseeable future. As Hispanic populations spread across the whole of the country, advertisers should beware of generalizing. Campaigns will be immensely more effective if they reflect, in some way, a sensitivity toward the gradations of Hispanic culture, including the ways that different generations choose to express it.

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