June 09, 2001

The Latino community, bigger and more affluent than ever, is buying computers and going online at a faster rate than any other group in the United States. But advertising and investment dollars are as tight as ever.
The nation’s Latinos numbered 35.3 million last year, up nearly 60 percent from 1990, according to the 2000 Census. That for the first time put the Latino population ahead of African-Americans.

The number of Latino middle-class households -- those with annual incomes of more than $40,000 – jumped by about 80 percent in 20 years, growing at a rate almost three times faster than non-Hispanic whites, says the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute.

Hispanic purchasing power for 2001 will surpass $452 billion, a growth of 118 percent since 1990, says the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

Forty seven percent of Latino households own computers, according to Cheskin Research. That's a growth rate of 80 percent over the last two years, compared to a growth rate of 21 percent for the general market.

And Internet penetration among Latino households rose from 12.6 percent in 1998 to 24 percent in 2000, says the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Despite these impressive figures, Spanish-language media – print, broadcast and online -- garnered just $2.4 billion, or about 1 percent, of the $236 billion that was spent on all advertising in the United States last year, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA). Latino-oriented Web sites got just $30 million last year, says Gene Bryan, President of, which tracks the Latino online industry.

The investment picture is also dismal. The Milken Institute found that Latino and other minority companies got just 2 percent of private investment dollars even though they accounted for 12 percent of U.S. businesses in 1999, the most recent figures available. It is unknown how many of these businesses target Latino consumers, and how many are Internet-related.

(see realted article 'Latino Web Sites Need Deep Pockets' in weekly article section)

Courtesy of Annenberg School for Communication

Laura Castañeda is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication


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