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Dissecting Diversity Understanding the Ethnic Consumer

3 minute read | May 2011

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, SVP, Community Relations and Public Affairs

Todd Hale, SVP, Consumer & Shopper Insights

From what people watch to what they buy, behavior across ethnic groups in the U.S. is as diverse as the groups themselves. A closer look at the multicultural landscape by The Nielsen Company reveals how consumers utilize the same resources differently. The findings show that African Americans are TV-centric, Hispanics are savvy smartphone users, and Asians/Pacific Islanders are heavily wired to the Internet. In retail, African Americans shop the most frequently; Hispanics shop less often but spend more than others; and Asians/Pacific Islanders take the most advantage of deals and promotions.

Multicultural Multimedia

African Americans are the heaviest TV consumers, watching 6 hours and 54 minutes a day versus the 5 hour and 11 minute average for all U.S. households. More than 30 percent of African American households have four or more televisions, and they over-index in subscription to premium cable services. On their mobile phones, they use more voice minutes than other groups (1,261 minutes per month).

Hispanics are very active on their smartphones, texting the most out of all races/ethnicities (943 texts per month) and employing a wide range of mobile activities, including mobile banking. Smartphone penetration has reached 45 percent, matching only Asian-American usage levels in popularity.

Asians/Pacific Islanders are the most active PC and Internet users, spending nearly 80 hours on PCs in February 2011 versus the national average of about 55 hours. They also consume more Internet content than any other group, visiting 3,600 web pages in February – about 1,000 more than their counterparts. Although they watch the least amount of TV (3 hours and 14 minutes per day), they stream the most online video, averaging 10 hours and 39 minutes in February – more than double the overall mean of 4 hours and 20 minutes.



Different Retail Channels for Diverse Needs

African-Americans shop more frequently than other ethnicities, but spend less on each trip and on an annual basis. Compared to other households, African-Americans make relatively fewer trips to major channels like grocery stores and supercenters, but are more frequent shoppers in smaller retailers like drug stores, dollar stores and convenience/gas channels. Spending on basic food ingredients, non-alcoholic beverages, and personal and beauty care products exceeds the U.S. average.

Hispanics shop less often than other ethnicities, but spend more on each trip and annually. English-preferred Hispanics are more frequent shoppers in supercenters, mass merchandisers and drugstores, while Spanish-preferred Hispanics outpace English-preferred in trips to dollar stores, convenience/gas stations and warehouse clubs. Hispanic households spend disproportionately more than the U.S. average on staple ingredients such as dried vegetables and grains, shortening oil, flour and seasonings and spices. They also buy more men’s and women’s beauty products and baby-related items than the average U.S. consumer.

Asians/Pacific Islanders offset slightly lower per trip spending with more frequent shopping than White Non-Hispanics. Asians also get the biggest bang for their buck, buying close to 31 percent of purchases on deal. Asian/Pacific Americans bring home far more fresh produce, nuts, dried fruit, pasta, yogurt, soup and juice & drinks compared to the U.S. average. With higher birth rates, they show a disproportionate amount of sales for baby categories. Their spending on skin care and oral hygiene also index well above average.


For more information, refer to Nielsen’s Digital American Family Report.

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