The Rise of Latinas As Top Spenders

When you think of the average shopaholic, does a fiscally responsible Hispanic woman come to mind?

Typically, it’s not the case.

Sure enough, according to a report titled “Latina Power Shift,” by the Nielsen Company, Latinas represent an important sector of the population largely ignored by advertisers.

Shoes bought by Hispanic women, for example, account for one-fifth of total footwear purchases, according to the study. Latinas spent about $3.3 billion on shoes, and according to Marshal Cohen, an industry analyst with the NPD Group, they’re buying shoes “faster than their population is growing.”

“Marketers who properly grasp the significance of this market will be the first to gain Latinas’ trust and benefit from all that they have to offer, now and long into the future,” concludes the marketing study.

Among other reasons, such as earning higher wages, pursuing higher education and a growing Hispanic population, the authors of the Nielsen study say Latinas should receive more attention from advertisers because they are the primary spenders in Hispanic households.

According to the report, “86 percent of Latinas say a woman is the primary shopper in their households, so it is women who control the lion’s share of the $1.2 trillion in annual Hispanic buying power.”

Latinas are involved in nine out of ten purchasing decisions for the family, but almost half of those purchasing decisions in the household -- from food and clothes to electronics and insurance -- are solely up to her.

The spending isn’t without reason, however. In the last 10 years, the number of Latino households earning less than $25,000 has gone down, and the number of households earning more than $50,000 has gone up. Slowly but surely, Latinas and their families are enrolling in the middle class.

“In today’s America, Latinas are not just increasingly the primary wage earner and influencer in the modern Hispanic household,” the report said, “they are also making their interests and concerns felt in the workplace, politics, healthcare and education.”

The higher wages can be explained in part by Latinas increasingly pursuing higher education. Latinas are the biggest group enrolling in college after graduating high school, with 73 percent of Latinas enrolled compared to 72 percent of non-Hispanic women and 61 percent of Hispanic men.

“Latinas’ increasing level of education, income, and social connectivity demands that companies understand and appeal to their primary drivers of engagement and consumption behavior,” according to the Nielsen report.

Only about 17 percent of the current American female population is Hispanic, but the report estimates that by 2060, that number will almost double, and Latinas will have about the same representation as non-Hispanic white women.

Also, the age distribution of Latinas is skewed, with younger Latinas outnumbering the older women of Hispanic origins. This means that as the younger women grow older, they continue to expand their families, and the Hispanic population expands as well.

Not only is the younger population larger, but Latinas are also having children at a younger age than non-Hispanic whites, with almost two-thirds of Latinas having their first child before reaching 18 years of age. This means that Hispanic families have more time to grow, and the population expands even more.

The financial decisions then come down to these young mothers, who find themselves responsible for buying items for the household.

Just because this research indicates that Latinas are a force to be reckoned with doesn’t mean that advertisers have to change their content completely to cater to the Latina audience. According to the report, 87 percent of Latinas consider themselves equally Hispanic and American, and millennial Latinas are increasingly seeing the importance of speaking both the English and Spanish languages.

As Nielsen’s senior vice president of public affairs and government relations Monica Gil put it: “Marketers should understand that Latinas are now breadwinners and that, when making purchasing decisions in mainstream America, they maintain cultural roots and are deciding when to be Latina and when to be American.”

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