2010 Census: The browning of Michigan?

Carlos Sanchez of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Last week, the Census Bureau released results of the 2010 Census for the remainder of US states including information for the state of Michigan. As predicted, national statistics saw a dramatic increase in growth for Hispanic populations over the last decade. The official toll for Latinos in the US surpassed some predictions, logging in at 50.5 million. Now, 1 in 6 people in the US are Hispanic and account for 16.3% of the nation’s population. For companies and organizations, these numbers will deliver noticeable implications for future efforts in marketing and outreach. Look for many brands to consider changes in their communication strategies, if they haven’t done so already.
Here in West Michigan (Grand Rapids and surrounding areas), regions also saw dramatic Latino growth. Here are a few highlights from the 2010 Census statistics for Michigan and the West Michigan area:
  • Hispanic populations in Michigan grew 34.7% between 2000 and 2010.
  • There are now 436,000 Latinos living in Michigan. This is 4.4% of the state’s population.
  • There are 29,261 Hispanics living in Grand Rapids. This is a 13% increase from 2000.
  • In Kent County, there are 58,437 Hispanic residents, an increase of 45% in 2000.
  • There 22,761 Hispanic residents in Ottawa County, a 36% increase from 2000.
  • Latinos are now the largest minority group in Kent and Ottawa counties.

Even though Michigan saw a drop in overall population, the rise and continual rise in Hispanic populations should not go unnoticed by local companies and organizations. Considerations about Spanish language and cultural relevance in advertising have typically been given importance under the pretense of how they relate to the traditionally Latino heavy populations in New York, Southern Florida, the Southwest, Texas, and California. Now, the “American Heartland”, will need to heed the call.

With the 2010 statistics from the US Census Bureau, what should businesses and organizations here in Michigan do next?

  • For governmental, social, and public service organizations, consider where the Hispanic communities in your region live, work, shop, worship, and entertain. Also, consider building bridges with individuals and other organizations that have earned credibility among local Latino communities.
  • For companies and business owners in the private sector, consider the effectiveness of where your advertising and marketing dollars to target Latinos are currently going. If your core Hispanic buying power exists within immigrant communities, consider alternatives to traditional media like print. These communities may have been under-severed in education and literacy.
  • For both, there is a burgeoning generation of young Hispanics that are growing up acculturated, bi-lingual, and English dominant. Another statistic from the 2010 Census found that roughly 1 in 4 children are Latino. Cultural relevance, not language will deliver value for this generation. Look for this trend to continue as this young demographic continues to drive US growth over the next 20 to 30 years.

Some have described this phenomenon as “the browning of America”. Carlos Sanchez, executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, recently analogized the new Latino growth as a giant wave. “Don’t try to stand against it,” he advised. “When you see it coming, start selling Boogie boards and make some money.”

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