Why older Hispanics are the key to unlocking the Latino market

Older Hispanics have a set of unique demographic and cultural characteristics that can be a key to unlocking the larger Latino consumer market.

Media and marketers are paying a lot of attention to Millennial Latinos these days, and rightly so – they’re at the forefront of shaping America’s 21st century multicultural society. But driving that phenomenon is another power demographic that often gets overlooked in the buzz about youth: older Hispanics.

Nielsen’s new consumer report this week, "The New American Vanguard: Latinos over 50+, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise," shows that older Hispanics have a set of unique demographic and cultural characteristics that can be a key to unlocking the larger Latino consumer market.

Some numbers: Latinos 50-plus are the fastest-growing segment of the older US population. Comprising 10% of their age cohort, they are projected to make up 24% (or 42 million people) by 2060.

Latinos live longer. Life expectancy for Hispanics is 83.5 years, compared with 78.7 years for non-Hispanic whites. With the exception of diabetes, Latinos experience lower death rates in seven out of 10 major causes of mortality.

Incomes in households headed by older Latinos are rising at a faster rate than those headed by younger ones. From 2005 to 2013, the percentage of older households making at least $100,000 annually increased from 14% to 20%.

Lastly, and this is a key point, because of the Hispanic culture’s tradition of close-knit families, older Latinos tend to live in multigenerational homes. Forty percent of Hispanics older than 55 live in households spanning at least two adult generations, double the number of non-Hispanic whites. The trend grows as Hispanics age.

For savvy marketers, these characteristics mean opportunity because older Latinos have the power to influence purchasing decisions and brand loyalty among several generations. Marketers can take advantage of this in numerous ways.

Older Hispanics are avid shoppers, our study found, buying for all ages in their households and making more trips to the store than non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics 65-plus also spend more – a remarkable 22% per shopping basket over their non-Hispanic white peers. Marketing tactics that promote bulk-buying are critical here.

Three-quarters of older Latinos like to eat at home, particularly traditional meals, more than going out. That makes them ideal for meal-ingredient and new-food-product marketers.

This group loves to travel, particularly foreign-born Hispanics over 60, who over-index their non-Hispanic white peers on travel-related services by an impressive 60%. Moreover, they spend more to travel on their favorite airline, are often asked for travel advice, and enjoy planning large family trips. Sounds like a growth market to me for travel-related businesses.

Far fewer Hispanics (38% vs. 62% of non-Hispanic whites) have employer-sponsored retirement plans, making them ready consumers for investment products.

Another important point – given their close family ties, older Latinos help shape values and attitudes of younger generations. More than half of older Hispanics are foreign-born, so they form the anchors of Latino culture in their families, passing on both the Spanish language and traditions from their countries of origin, as well transmitting their great appreciation and patriotism for their new country. Hispanics 50-plus are more likely to vote and could be the decisive swing vote in many local and state elections, and they will be a growing force to be dealt with in the upcoming national election. (This age group, by the way, is also strongly bilingual.) Advertising tapping that emotional touch point can be a winner.

Older Latinos stand at the influential crossroads of two of the most important and rapid demographic evolutions in the US: the growing populations of older Americans, or Baby Boomers as they are known, and older Hispanics. With more health, wealth, and a longer life expectancy, this group has growing influence and power that smart marketers can’t afford to ignore.

Mónica Gil is SVP and GM of multicultural growth and strategy at Nielsen.

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