Unprecedented issues impacting Latino communities in the United States have risen over the last several years — from political turmoil and sluggish hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico to a mass shooting in El Paso targeting Mexican-Americans and Mexicans and immigration issues such as massive ICE raids, the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA and family separations at the Southern border.
“Our communities are going through some very trying times,” Stacie de Armas, vice president of strategic initiatives and consumer engagement at Nielsen, told NBC News.
Top data firm Nielsen found that U.S. Latinos have been able to harness their growing economic, social and political clout amid tough times, according to a new report obtained by NBC News.
De Armas hopes the findings, which will be publicly released on Monday, serve as a contemporary roadmap for companies, educators, policymakers, business people and others seeking to understand Latino consumers' purchasing habits in order to effectively serve the needs of a population that accounts for nearly a fifth of the nation’s population.
“We’re seeing a demographic revolution that is fundamentally changing the history of the U.S.,” said de Armas. “We are the future and the growth engine of this country.”
In the report, Nielsen uses the term Latinx as a gender-neutral, inclusive alternative to “Latino.”
“The decision is a nod toward greater inclusion of women, LGBTQ+ and nonbinary Hispanics and the popularity of the term in social media and academic writing,” Nielsen said.
Economic growth by the numbers
The Latinx population’s purchasing power is expected to top $1.9 trillion by 2023, which is higher than the gross domestic product of countries such as Australia, Spain and Mexico, according to Nielsen.
The growth comes at a time when Latinx consumers, who are part of the nation’s youngest minority group with a median age of 28 — compared to 38 in the general population —quickly approach their peak earning years — accounting for 75 percent of all U.S. labor force growth over the last 6 years.
About 60 million Hispanics are living in the U.S. and Census projects that the nation’s Latinx population will increase to 109 million in the next 40 years.
Latinx political awakening, a rise in voters
Latinx voter turnout reached 11.7 million in 2018, up from 6.8 million in 2014, the single largest increase on record from one midterm election to another, according to the report.
Nielsen, which is a 2020 Census Official Partner working to ensure an accurate Census count, found that immigration issues as well as health care and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census have motivated many young Latinos to become registered voters.
“The civic implications of an inaccurate count are well known. However, a census count that doesn’t adequately represent Latinx consumers — one of the primary future growth engines for the U.S. — impacts businesses,” said Lillian Rodríguez López, co-chair of Nielsen’s Hispanic and Latinx Advisory Council, in a statement.
Census measurements are the foundation for $90 billion in advertising transactions and also informs decision-making processes across the nation’s biggest retailers that cost over $1 trillion, added Rodríguez López.
"Every business in America makes decisions based on Census," said de Armas. “This is important because we pride ourselves [Nielsen] in siding with the truth.”
In 2014, 18 percent of Hispanics (27 percent of those eligible) voted in the midterm election, in comparison to 39 percent of the total population. In the 2018 elections, 29 percent of Hispanics (40 percent of those eligible) voted versus 49 percent of the total population.
“We often hear that Latinos don’t show up,” said de Armas. “The challenge we’ve had is not ‘showing up.’ Registration is the challenge, because once we are registered, we show up.”
The largest increase was among voters ages 18 to 24. In 2014, 10 percent of this age group voted in elections. That percentage more than doubled in 2018, reaching 23 percent.
That is an increase from 64 percent in 2014 to 77 percent in 2018, signaling that young Hispanic voters are more engaged and can become an even greater political force in the future, Nielsen said.
Fifty-two percent of Latino registered voters said they were giving “quite a lot” of thought to the 2018 midterm elections, up from 35 percent in 2014.
“The rising influence of Hispanics as consumer dynamos and empowered activists is manifesting itself clearly in the recent successes of Latina politicians,” said Nielsen. “Currently, they include one Latina U.S. Senator, 12 Latinas serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 117 Latinas serving as statewide elected legislators in 27 states.”
Consumers with a social nature, growing up in a digital age
As the youngest ethnic group in the country, Latinos are coming of age in a digital world, meaning they seamlessly leverage social media platforms and websites to both offer and seek recommendations in regards to products or services.
Latinx consumers are more likely to have these digital interactions through their phones.
They are more likely to visit websites or apps on their smartphones than on a computer or tablet and, compared with the general population, Hispanic consumers spend over one hour more each week on social-networking sites via these devices.
De Armas said that to understand how Latinos behave online, marketers need to have a good grasp on how these consumers navigate the world beyond digital platforms.
U.S. Hispanics think of their consumer habits as a community endeavor. Family, friends, and consumer reviews mostly influence Latinx consumers’ purchases. About 40 percent said their friends or neighbors are more likely to seek advice from them before making a purchase, over-indexing the general population by 10 percent.
Nearly 80 percent of Latinos go grocery shopping with someone else, frequently with family members.
Nielsen found that 33 percent of Latinx consumers agree with the statement, “I prefer to buy things my friends or neighbors would approve of,” over-indexing the general population by 20 percent.
Seventy-three percent of Latinos said it’s important to them to preserve their traditions and pass along their cultural heritage to their children, meaning that bilingualism and family ties are fundamental to understand Latinx’s consumer habits, the reports reads.
“Latinos put more importance to these interactions online than any other group,” said de Armas. “So brands and companies should find ways to tailor their messages to fit this experience.”
She added that Latino consumers are more likely to support socially-conscious brands, especially if the company backs causes close to them.
According to Nielsen, 53 percent buy “natural products” because they are “concerned about the environment“ and 45 percent (17 percent higher than the general population) say they expect the brands they buy from to support social causes.
“Latinos care deeply about social causes close to them,” said de Armas. “We want to align with companies that understand our values and authentically understand our American journey.”