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Despite All the Racist Nonsense, Our People Are Still the Nation’s Elemental Growth Variable

Illustration by Shyama Golden

Over the past few years, the Latinx community has had to contend with an endless barrage of racist national policies, eye-popping new laws stacked on top of long standing ones that do nothing to advance the interests of Latinx people. Meanwhile, a sustained campaign of fear mongering and un-Presidential rhetoric has worked to cast brown people from south of the border as dangerous “others” and invaders. The outcome is that Latinx people are being subjected to the anxiety of the times even within their communities, no longer able to ignore the fact that their lives and livelihoods are at risk solely because of their perceived country of origin. 

And yet, despite all the racist nonsense, new data demonstrates how the Latinx community has become the epitome of resilience and progress. Set against the damaging messaging that Latinos are a coalition of criminals, drug dealers and rapists, a recently published Nielsen report detailed the reality that we’re becoming some of the nation’s most enthusiastic consumers, creators, and voters, integral players in making America great with our positive influence on the US economy, population, and culture. “We’re seeing a demographic revolution that is fundamentally changing the history of the U.S.,” Stacie de Armas, a lead author of the report, concluded to NBC News last month. “We are the future and the growth engine of this country.” 

Consumer Power

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This trajectory is most apparent in the context of Latinx purchasing power: The Nielsen report cited a current Latinx purchasing power of $1.5 trillion in the US, projecting that the overall purchasing power will, in just a few years, balloon to nearly $2 trillion. Part of this exponential growth in buying power is tied to an overall population growth of people who identify as Hispanic, set to double in population over the next 50 years; the demographic is projected to grow at a rate nearly seven times higher than that of non-Hispanic people. Future immigrants from Latin America, as well as their descendants, account for a large part of this projection. 

But Latinx consumers won’t simply be contributing to growth in terms of profit: they actually are driving a growth of conscience as well. As a whole, the demographic is more likely than others to support socially-conscious brands, eco-friendly products, and goods produced locally, descriptors that reflect an increasing share of the consumer markets. “Latinos care deeply about social causes close to them,” explained de Armas. “We want to align with companies that understand our values and authentically understand our American journey.” Latinx consumers are also especially influenced by what members of their family or community are buying, which is yet another expression of the connection that Latinos crave as consumers within a society.

Power as the Creators and Connoisseurs of Music

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It’s impossible to overlook the striking influence that Latinx musicians have had on the US music industry. While some xenophobes demand that people speak English while in the US, the rest of America is psyched that people are singing in Spanish. 

A report released this spring documented the way that 2018 was a breakthrough year for the genre, edging out country music from the top five biggest genres of music. Latin music made up about 10 percent of overall music consumption nationally, in terms of both individual tracks as well as albums. In the context of other creative genres, that means that the Latinx footprint on music is huge. (Consider how dismal the numbers are in Hollywood, where Latinos account for about 3 percent of the leading roles.) 

According to data from Nielsen, Latinx music fans are also shaping the industry with their listening habits, particularly in the context of streaming services. Nearly 90 percent of Latinx consumers of music reported streaming music in the past year, compared to a national average of about 70 percent. This may be due to the fact that the Latinx population has a younger median age than other demographics, a group that Nielsen points out is more tech-savvy. But even outside of streaming music services, Latinx consumers have a significant role in the growth of the greater music industry, spending more hours per week listening to music and more money in general on things that drive revenue — things like ticket sales and merchandise. 

David Bakula, a senior vice president for Nielsen Music, told Billboard, “Latin music is everywhere — this isn’t just about Hispanics, it’s about its impact on popular music as a whole. It’s not a small, niche market anymore.” He cited the increasing frequency of collaborations between Latinx and non-Latinx musicians as evidence that the genre is not only growing but also evolving the entire industry, proof that we can make magic when we work together. 

Voter Turnout

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Neither fear nor despair was powerful enough to suppress the Latinx vote in the last midterm elections. On the contrary, voter turnout nearly doubled from 6.8 million to 11.7 million — a record-breaking increase, with the biggest rate increase happening for voters in the 18 to 24 year old age range. And while 2018 was an explosive year for Latinx civic engagement, 2020 is going to be an even bigger year as millions of Latinx youth will be coming of age and eligible to cast their vote. 

The uptick in voter engagement is due to a surge in voter registrations. Organizers like the tireless Dolores Huerta — who, at age 89, is still going door to door in order to register people to vote — are working to temper the cooling effect that Trump administration’s hateful rhetoric and racist policies may have had on the Latinx population’s desire to cast their ballots. According to figures gathered by Voto Latino, new Latinx registrations were up nearly 300 percent between the 2014 and 2018 midterms, with most of that growth occurring in battleground states. Other analyses have determined that the Latinx vote was likely the driving force behind flipping Senate seats in swing states like Arizona and Nevada. 

If the projections of analysts holds true for the 2020 election, Latinx voter turnout will end up being the X factor in ousting President Trump and many GOP incumbents from their posts. If you’re looking to register yourself or help a family member register for the upcoming election, visit https://vote.gov to access online registration forms for your state or information on where you can get registered within your community.

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