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Hispanics: A Cultural Phenomenon, Now Home

Part of today’s presidential election parlance calls for a “wall” to be built, for sundry reasons, between the U.S. and Mexico. While it makes intuitive sense to deter illegal immigration to the U.S., more Mexicans are choosing to leave the U.S. than arrive; the emphasis on choosing and not deportation. This is not a recent phenomenon; it’s been going on for years. According to the Pew Research Center we have seen a net loss of 140,000 Mexicans in the U.S. from 2009-2014. The same data sources state the overall flow of Mexicans (i.e., the number coming to the U.S. versus the number leaving) is the smallest since the 1990s.

There may be a myriad of reasons for this, but the fact remains coming to the U.S. nowadays is not as appealing as leaving.

I thought about this a bit beyond the rhetoric and hype in today’s popular press, and fell back on my researcher reflexes of examining this macro-trend first from a demographic perspective. Digging further, I discovered that overall growth of Latinos in the U.S. as a whole is slowing down. Another study by Pew shows between 2007 and 2014 the U.S. Hispanic population is currently crawling along at 2.8%, down from a rate of 5.8% in the 1990s and 4.4% in the 2000s. A trend persists.

3 generation Hispanic family at homeMy conclusion is we’re seeing a maturation of not only Mexicans (who represent about two out of three U.S. Hispanics), but, overall, all Latinos to the U.S. A slowdown in fertility rates of Hispanics is occurring as they, as a cohort, continue to ‘mainstream’ into the population and build economic prosperity. Hence, while the 2.1% growth of Hispanics in the U.S. reported last week by USA Today is still greater than 0.75% overall U.S. growth (which includes 17% Hispanics who constitute the total U.S. population 2014 Census), a strong case can be made the salad days of boom Hispanic growth may be behind us.

As a research strategist, what does this mean if the Hispanic fertility rate has fallen as the share of Latino immigrants has declined? Well, I think it may call for more sophisticated marketing approaches moving forward rather than employing a simplistic “Hispanic” strategy. There may be specific considerations when addressing Latino by various states, i.e., only two of the largest fifteen Hispanic-populated states, South Florida and D.C. and adjacent suburbs, have more immigrants than U.S.-born Latinos, and perhaps more prone to a less-acculturated messaging strategy. States in the Northeast, on the other hand, have Hispanic populations who are, for the most part, well-acculturated and can absorb subtly tailored advertising messages, with less need to hit them over the head with their ethnicity.

It’s a big country, well represented by an even bigger world within. I trust our Hispanic brothers and sisters don’t close the door on their way out. Until then, perhaps we should consider the pluralism their dynamic cultures represent.

 

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