Continuing each Monday the next section from my 2001 Book. The trends described here are as strong as they were then:
Many leaders of enterprise understand that the aging of the baby boom will affect them in one way or another, even if they have not thought through exactly how they will be affected. But many leaders do not think about the huge impact that America’s increasing racial, ethnic, and religious diversity will have on them. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the US experienced massive waves of immigration. Most Americans had ample opportunities to meet and do business with newcomers to these shores—people who looked “different” and spoke English with an accent, often immigrants from Europe: Romanians, Czechs, Italians, Irish, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles. By the 1950’s, this had become much more rare. Today we are in the midst of a new rise in the number (and power) of Americans who come from afar.
The first and most significant component of this trend is the increasing Latinization of North America. As recently as 1980, people of so-called Hispanic origin as defined by the Census Bureau represented only 6.4% of the US population. By the 2000 census, this statistic was up to 12.5%, almost double. By comparison, in the same period, the percentage of Americans who are African-American has only risen from 11.8% to 12.9%. By 2005, the number of Hispanics will exceed that of African-Americans. By 2025, over 18% of the American population will be of Hispanic origin. In the second half of the twentieth century, the number of Hispanics is expected to rise towards 30%, twice the number of African-Americans. This is the greatest demographic and ethnic shift in the history of our nation.
The Latinization of North America is pervasive, affecting most states, but the effect is greatest in some of our largest states. California (as of 1999 estimates) was 31.6% Hispanic. The second-largest state, Texas was 30.2% Hispanic. The figure for third-ranking New York was 14.6%, while Florida (which will grow larger than New York in the next 10 to 15 years) is 15.4% Hispanic. These four states contain about two-thirds (over 21 million) of America’s 31 million Hispanics. The Los Angeles metropolitan area includes 6 million (38.5% of LA’s total population), New York 3.5 million (17.4%), and Miami 1.4 million (38.5%). Other cities with over a million Latinos are San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston. Just below the million line is San Antonio, our “most Latin” major metro area, at 53.5%.
But Latinization is not only a trend in big cities and big states – the fastest growing group in Iowa is the Hispanic population. Go to small towns in Northern Illinois like Elgin and Belvidere and you’ll be surprised to see how many taquerias you find.
This trend will have an enormous effect on the United States of the future. Large cities have a disproportionate effect on television and other media. California, Texas, and Florida tend to be trend-setters in mass culture, from retailing to restaurants. Today, we can already see the effect of our Latinization in our food (at home and at restaurants) and in our music (watch the Grammy awards). But this is just the beginning. Alert enterprises will pay notice to the following implications of this shift in our society:
¨ Language. Words from Spanish (and eventually Portuguese, the language of Brazil) will increasingly become part of American English.
¨ Color and design. When you see a fountain in a courtyard, you’re looking at vestiges of the Spanish Moors which have found their way to us through Mexico. Go to Latin America today and you will see a much more colorful world than “Anglo America.” The impact of this on American style is inevitable.
¨ Religion. The vibrancy and role of Roman Catholicism in the US is going to change.
¨ Family attitudes. In large part due to the influence of Roman Catholicism, we will likely see changes in family size, in birth rates, and in the roles of mothers and fathers.
¨ Politics. Whether the topic is abortion, education, or relations with Latin America (for example the expansion of NAFTA), people of Latin descent in the United States will play a more active role in setting our national agenda.
It is difficult to anticipate every result of America’s Latinization. But it will be worth the effort for those enterprises that try. One crucial truth is that Latinization is not a single monolithic trend. “Hispanics” is a loose term; others prefer “Latino” or “Chicano,” and more terms will evolve in the future. The Spanish-heritage segment of the US population includes Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Colombians, and the people from other nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. In a cultural sense, it includes many people from Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines. The first mistake many observers will make will be to lump all these people together, making assumptions that they are all alike, sharing the same music, language, and beliefs. Close observation will often show important differences. For example, third generation Mexican-Americans are likely to have different viewpoints from new arrivals, and the younger generation (as in most cultures) may not see things as their parents do.
The first people to understand the subtleties and significance of these trends are what I call the close-to-the-ground marketers – those enterprises who deal with the vast scope of our population on an intimate daily basis: supermarkets, tobacco companies, beer and soft drink companies, food companies. Philip Morris had Spanish language billboards in San Antonio 20 years ago. At the other extreme, those enterprises furthest removed from the ground are often the slowest to see and interpret these shifts. It may be a long time before Fifth Avenue stores offer Spanish-language customer service representatives and store directories.
The rise of Hispanic North America is just the largest of many cultural waves currently at work. People of many backgrounds are coming into our country and reshaping it. We use the term “Asian-American” to denote immigrants and descendants of immigrants from countries covering a huge swath of the globe, from India to China, Japan to Cambodia, Pakistan to Singapore. Their percentage of the US population has risen from 1.6% in 1980 to 4.2% in 2000. This number is expected to cross 10% in the second half of the 21st century.
Their economic influence is large and growing. It has been stated that 40% of all Korean immigrants own their own businesses, the highest percentage ever recorded for any ethnic group. However, Asian-Americans have not yet begun to penetrate US national politics in a significant way. That will change. Today Asian-Americans make up over 40% of the enrollment at many big California universities. Their influence in our politics, language, and culture will rise dramatically. And we will begin to understand their diversity and importance. For example, Islam (much of it from Asia) is already one of the fastest-growing religions in the US, with estimates ranging from 4 to 7 million adherents. There will be a Mosque in your neighborhood. The only question is when.
Taking all of these groups together, America will become a much more diverse nation in the 21st century. I believe we will see a dramatic increase in intermarriage between these different groups. Only twenty years ago, a black-white couple was a very rare sight in all but the very largest cities. I recently sat in a fast-food place in Singapore watching the Indians, Chinese, and Malays – and even a few Anglos – walking by, all married to each other, and realized that this is what America may look like in the future. The WASP family of the 1950s sitcom is a shrinking portion of the United States and the world. Before the present century is out, less than half of all Americans will be “white folks” as classically defined.