Buying Power of African-Americans Approaches $ 1.0 Trillion


Here’s an article about the vast growth in the buying power of African-Americans which is projected to hit $ 1.0 trillion this year according to a leading market researcher.  I suppose that one could celebrate that milestone as a measure of success, but wealth is what you  keep, not what you spend. 

The primary focus of market research revolves around the whole idea of how and why people spend with a view towards crafting a marketing approach to get those dollars.  Whether or not the spending is inimical to the well being of the demographic being studied is not a consideration.

Unbeknownst to most African-Americans is the fact that we are very heavily studied and assessed by other people from an economic, political and social perspective and wherever we can be positioned on any of those fronts to be of benefit to someone else’s agenda, that’s what generally occurs.  This largely occurs outside of our immediate awareness in many instances.  Unfortunately, we don’t spend a similar amount of time studying ourselves. Here’s an excerpt from a study analyzing African-Americans as a market:

African-American/Black Market Opportunities
• Significant spending power and market size
• Skews younger than the U.S. population
• Heavy media consumption, especially TV and magazine usage
• Urban population concentration allows easier geographic targeting (40% of African Americans/Blacks live in 10 cities)

African-American/Black Market Challenges
• Declining optimism: Only 44% of African Americans/Blacks believe their situation
will improve as compared to 57% in 1986
• Greater segmentation: An increasing number of African Americans/Blacks—nearly
two-thirds—believe that the values of poor African Americans/Blacks differ from
those of more upscale African Americans/Blacks


What I find very interesting is that politically, we’re generally “managed” as one homogeneous group—as a matter of fact, that view is strongly encouraged, whereas in economic studies, there’s a real effort to break us down and analyze the various sub segments among black people.  There’s a reason for that. Encouraging homogeneity in the political context effectively mutes us and allows political operatives to come up with a “one size fits all” offer in exchange for the vote, however that same tactic doesn’t work well when one is trying to make money in the African-American community.

The two things noted under market challenges are interesting as well.  Market research is as much about shaping behavior as it is about studying it.   The optimism and segmentation challenges have no doubt been exploited by using marketing approaches that address or play off these emotions.  For example, someone who is not optimistic might be induced to buy a product that makes him feel optimistic.  My point is that nothing is missed in these studies that might provide a marketing opportunity.  I’d also argue that the same thing applies in the political context as well; that’s to say, nothing is missed.  Make no mistake, the African-American community is heavily studied along with every other demographic.

I’m not sure if $ 1.o trillion of spending power should be a milestone that anyone needs to beat their chest about if there’s no multiplier effect on the African-American community’s fortunes.  What good is it having that sort of spending power when urban inner cities where many black people live remain economic wastelands wanting for investment capital?  If our spending power could be tapped to drive our political and economic betterment, that would be a true cause for celebration, but as it is, it’s clear it will be directed elsewhere. 


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