The New Generation Gap
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
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
Are Fastest-Growing Minority – Chicago Tribune
tints new kind of generation gap – USA Today