The New Generation Gap

Discussion
Jun 16, 2005
Avatar

By David Morse, President & CEO, New American Dimensions, www.newamericandimensions.com


The U.S. Census Bureau made headlines last week with the announcement that Hispanics accounted for half of the U.S. population growth from 2003 to 2004. It was reported that Hispanics passed the 40 million mark – there were 41.3 million a year ago – meaning that one in seven Americans is now Hispanic.


It wasn’t shocking news for those of us who follow this stuff. But it did affirm, even amplify, projections on just how quickly the Hispanic population is growing. Hispanics are clearly still on the fast track to match or surpass prior estimates that they will comprise a quarter of the population by 2050.


Since the Census released its results, there has been a flurry of articles written about the new “generation gap,” referring to the fact that older Americans tend to be white while younger Americans are increasingly non-White. For instance, one-third of the Hispanic, Native American and African American population is younger than 18 compared to a quarter of Whites. On the other end of the spectrum, Whites make up 85 percent of people ages 85 and older.


USA Today wrote: “The influx of newcomers, driven largely by Hispanics, is taking the country far beyond the traditional red-state/blue-state split between Republicans and Democrats that has preoccupied the country in recent years. It is forming sharp age and race divisions.”


The same article quoted demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institute: “Age forty is a monumental dividing line. The white dominated society that we had back in the 1950’s is being faded out.”


Moderator’s Comment – During the 1960’s and the height
of the original generation gap, Jerry Rubin got a whole generation saying, “Don’t
trust anyone over thirty.” Will “Don’t trust anyone over forty” be the new rallying
cry? How will successful marketers deal with such a monumental demographic shift?


The biggest news last week wasn’t about the extent of
the Hispanic growth, but rather where it came from. For the first time since
before the immigration boom in the 1970’s, domestic births outpaced immigration
as population drivers. Over the last four years, the difference between Hispanic
births and deaths (what demographers call the natural increase) was 3.3 million,
compared to the 2.7 million who immigrated.


Not that no one saw it coming. According to a report
issued in 2003 by the Pew Hispanic Center, “Over the next twenty years (there
will be) an important shift in the makeup of the Hispanic population with second-generation
Latinos – the U.S. born children of immigrants – emerging as the largest component
of that population. Given the very substantial differences in earnings, education,
fluency in English and attitudes between foreign-born and native-born Latinos,
this shift has profound implications for many realms of public policy, and indeed
for anyone seeking to understand the nature of demographic change in the United
States.”


So, yes, Americans will increasingly be non-white, increasingly
Hispanic. And yes, marketing to an increasingly multicultural consumer population
will become more complex. But a whole generation of Hispanics is emerging that
will be raised watching American TV, consuming American products and loving
American brands. It is likely that with this new generation of consumers, the
cross-cultural gap will narrow, not widen.
David Morse – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "The New Generation Gap"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

If old whites are going to control the wealth, young unacculturated Hispanics are going to be motivated to “fit in” more to get their piece of the pie. So I see the gap narrowing. But didn’t Jack Weinberg say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” Or was it Dylan? Or Shelly Winters? Being well past 30, I don’t trust myself, and certainly not my memory.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Warren — I believe it was actually Mario Savio of the Berkley Free Speech Movement. In fact, I’m sure it was. On the main topic I think we should all rush out and try to obtain a copy of (the long out of print book) The Burden of Support written by Dr. David Hayes-Bautista which brilliantly examined this very issue over a decade ago (nothing like being way too ahead of your time). David’s claim then was that the intra-generational conflict wouldn’t be between those on either side of an age line but rather between the cultures of old Anglo-entitlement eaters and younger, primarily Mexican-American tax payers. “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30” was ideology. What we’re about to see will be economics.

Santiago Vega
Guest
Santiago Vega
15 years 8 months ago

I agree that the cross-generational gap is narrowing and will continue to do so. Let’s hope marketers catch up on that because, at the moment, they are scratching their heads about how to market to the current levels of diversity.

In my opinion, they don’t quite understand yet that consumer psychology isn’t defined by race but rather by lifestyle, age group, region or community, etc…

As I’ve said before, minorities want to feel like they belong; they have the same aspirations. It’s their preferences and how these are expressed that are influenced in some degree by their race, not their aspirations.

Bill Grize III
Guest
Bill Grize III
15 years 8 months ago
I find the potential of a demarcation over age and race a very interesting sociological shift. This is definitely one to keep an eye on and I think we should welcome the challenge of a diverse clientele rather than fret over marketing to various segments and changing the way we do business. The old way of marketing to one audience via television is long gone and we should embrace the possibilities with the internet while remaining very closely in tune with our Communities and customer base. Just to clarify matters, Jack Weinberg was indeed the originator of the quote . QUOTATION: We have a saying in the movement that we don’t trust anybody over 30. ATTRIBUTION: JACK WEINBERG, twenty-four year old leader of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, California, interview with San Francisco Chronicle reporter, c. 1965. Weinberg later said he did not actually believe the statement, but said it as a kind of taunt to a question asking if there were outside adults manipulating the organization. — The Washington… Read more »
Franklin Benson
Guest
Franklin Benson
15 years 8 months ago

As a genuine member of Generation X, I’m feeling ignored once again. It seems there just aren’t enough of us for marketers to bother marketing to in the first place. Generation Y and the Baby Boomers have no trouble getting Corporate America’s attention. Generation X just has to pick and choose among products that aren’t really geared to us in the first place.

Generation Y is more Hispanic than the preceding generations. (So what?) This is only of interest to marketers because Generation Y has some real profit potential. The unique characteristics of Generation X were pretty much ignored, and never very well understood to begin with.

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 8 months ago
David, yes, these shifts are rewriting classical marketing and segmentation. Ryan, thanks for bringing up Dr. David Hayes-Bautista’s excellent contributions to the generational dynamics of demographics. Also, Warren, I would disagree about younger Latino lot wanting to “fit in” to get a piece of the pie. What is taking place right now in the United States calls for an appreciation of the fact that the younger generation of Latinos (and other ethnic groups) are not just trying to fit into a groove. Collectively, this generation is actually rewriting “what it really means to be American” and many young Latinos are as American as “American Pie” – proud of their Salsa and inspired to build wealth like many successful baby boomers. So it is going to be tough to compartmentalize their Latino vs. American identities. White kids are also more comfortable with other cultures than their parents or grandparents, and Latino kids with Anglo culture or Asian kids with African American or Hispanic culture. The challenge for ethnic marketers will be to see the “unity in… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 8 months ago
Don’t be too sure that “old whites are going to control the wealth,” and that “young unacculturated Hispanics are going to be motivated to ‘fit in’ more to get their piece of the pie.” As things become more and more global, the economic reality of the younger Latino will be fueled by US opportunities and by opportunities and creativity generated in any number of the Spanish speaking countries throughout the world including Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Most young Hispanics won’t be “unacculturated,” but that doesn’t mean that they will be “fitting in” to the Anglo cultural norms. They will be acculturated in the sense of creating their own hybrid reality and benefiting from the advantages that come with bilingualism and biculturalism. Certainly there will be those unacculturated Hispanics who lack the education and English language strength to compete, but they won’t be the majority. There will always be disenfranchised youth. That’s as true with Anglo youth as with other youth segments. However, not choosing to “fit in” to the establishment or former-dominant culture… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Okay, it was a knee-jerk reaction. I agree with Rupa and Rochelle, now that I’ve read what they had to say. They sound a whole lot smarter than me, anyway.

Jaime Marin
Guest
Jaime Marin
15 years 8 months ago
Unless immigration laws change and the US closes its borders, the cultural gap will neither widen nor narrow. While it is true that the biggest growth of Hispanics is coming from those who are being born here, we still have a substantial amount of people that we can consider and we will continue considering new arrivals, and new arrivals will continue crossing the border. A good number of Hispanic Americans who are being born here are what we call bilingual and bi-cultural, the type of people that feel extremely comfortable in both cultures, jumping from one to the other without a conscience effort. For that reason, it will be a matter of their personal preference to choose in which of the two cultures they like to spend most of their time and the way they like to raise their own children. While it is truth that this segment of the population is growing up watching American TV and listening to American music, they are also growing-up eating tacos and pozole and watching novellas with their… Read more »
Emily Mikell
Guest
Emily Mikell
15 years 8 months ago

While I think specialization is the way to go for most marketing for smaller businesses, I realized that I, personally, go to Lowe’s for plumbing, gardening, electrical, appliances, hardware, etc. I think Americans, regardless of cultural background, will go where price is reasonable, location is convenient, products are plentiful, service is professional and intelligent, and promotion is widespread. The order of these, of course, is dependent on our own hierarchy of needs.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Do population projections for the U.S. lead you to believe the cross-cultural gap in the country will widen or narrow?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...