Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hispanic Income Trends: Implications for Marketing

The median income of Hispanic households has lagged behind the overall population of the United States for a long time and does not seem to be getting better. The largest difference since 1980 was in 1996 when the disparity was of $14,465 dollars (in 2008 dollars), according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Since 1980 the smallest gap occurred in 1981 with a difference of $8,573. The latest figures available are for 2008 show a difference of $12,390, a gap similar to gaps in the 1990's. See the historical trends table on the left.

The current gap probably reflects some of the social and economic issues that resulted from the downturn of the economy between 2007 and 2009. But there are uplifting news. My analysis of the American Community Survey data of 2008 shows that income differences are not evenly distributed in the population as shown below:

It is interesting to observe that the gaps between the overall population median income and that of Hispanics is largest at the higher income levels, and interestingly there are more Hispanics in the middle income categories than in the overall population. This is very revealing because for the majority of consumer products income levels between $25,000 and $60,000 are ideal, and that is the range in which there are more Hispanics proportional to their population. This alone is a very important reason for marketers to pay attention to Latinos.

Clearly, the fact that proportionally Hispanics have some more households in the lower end of the distribution and fewer in the upper end is not desirable. Nevertheless, where the sweet spot of most marketers resides, that is in the middle, Hispanics have higher representation. This is surprising and uplifting, and helps understand that Hispanics are not generally poorer but they are better represented where it counts for marketers.

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