Six Ways the U.S. Latino Population is Evolving

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the traditions, history and culture rooted in diverse countries of origin, in addition to the important contributions of Hispanic Americans. While history is immutable, cultural traditions and their manifestations in today’s culture continue to evolve, fueled by a dynamic and growing U.S. Latino population.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate “…the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” What began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson was expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to span from September 15 to October 15, the 30-day period we now observe as Hispanic Heritage Month.(1)

Influenced by history but not defined by it, the U.S. Latino population is as unique and omni-dimensional as those whose contributions we honor during Hispanic Heritage Month. Highlighted below are just a few of the ways in which the U.S. Hispanic population is evolving.

Population Growth
Between 2008 and 2018 alone, the US Latino population grew 25%(2), reaching 59.9 million in 2018. The exponential population growth continues to drive shifting demographics, cultural influences and preferences, many of which are catalysts of change when it comes to technology adoption, media usage, attitudes and more.

Countries of Origin
While Mexico still ranks #1 as the Latin American country of origin of immigrants to the United States, the percentage of immigrants from Mexico is declining, while that of other Latin American countries as a whole is on the rise.(3) According to Pew Research, since 2010, “among groups with populations above 1 million, Dominicans and Guatemalans had the fastest growth.”(4)

Youth
According to Nielsen, the average age of U.S. Hispanics is 27, compared to 42 for non-Hispanic whites. With youth as a driving factor, Hispanics “are embracing technology faster than any other consumer group.” For example, Hispanics age 18 and older are 9% more likely to own a smartphone and 11% more likely to own a game console than non-Hispanic whites.(5)

Generational Dynamics
The immigrant share of the U.S. Latino population is on the decline, from 40% in 2000 to 33% in 2017. Of persons of Mexican descent, the share has dropped from 42% to 31%. The majority of Latinos living in the U.S., over 79%, are U.S. citizens, up from 74% in 2010.

Language
While English proficiency is up for the U.S. Latino population overall, that is not the case for all countries of origin. While 70% of Latinos age 5 and older speak English proficiently, English proficiency is lower for persons of Honduran, Guatemalan or Salvadoran descent (with English proficiency levels at 48%, 48% and 53%, respectively).(6)

Purchasing Power
The burgeoning purchasing power of U.S. Latinos–already at $1.7 trillion(7) continues to trend upward as the Hispanic share of the U.S. population grows. These changes affect the shifting dynamics impacting preferences and perspectives. As the population evolves, one thing remains constant, when marketing to US Latinos, there is no “one size fits all”.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, as we celebrate the rich cultural traditions, history and contributions made by Hispanic Americans, we must also look to the vibrant cultural influences of today, fueled by a dynamic and evolving population, that will continue to emerge and shape future generations of U.S. Latinos.


(1) U.S. Census Bureau. “Hispanic Heritage Month 2018.” Hispanic Heritage Month 2018, 4 Oct. 2018, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2018/hispanic-heritage-month.html.

(2) Flores, Antonio, et al. “U.S. Hispanic Population Reached New High in 2018, but Growth Has Slowed.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 8 July 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/08/u-s-hispanic-population-reached-new-high-in-2018-but-growth-has-slowed/.

(3) Radford, Jynnah, and Luis Noe-Bustamante. “Immigrants in America: Key Charts and Facts.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 24 Sept. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2019/06/03/facts-on-u-s-immigrants/.

(4) Noe-Bustamante, Luis. “Key Facts about U.S. Hispanics and Their Diverse Heritage.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 16 Sept. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/16/key-facts-about-u-s-hispanics/.

(5) “Young, Digital and Social: Connecting with Today’s Hispanic Consumers.” Nielsen, https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/podcast/2018/young-digital-and-social-connecting-with-todays-hispanic-consumers/

(6) Noe-Bustamante, Luis. “Key Facts about U.S. Hispanics and Their Diverse Heritage.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 16 Sept. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/16/key-facts-about-u-s-hispanics/.

(7) Patno, Desirée, and Nawrb. “The Hispanic Potential Buying Power of 1.7 Trillion Dollars.” NAWRB, 28 Feb. 2019, https://www.nawrb.com/hispanic-buying-power/.

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