The African-American population is being recognized as an important market in its own right: that is, a market which needs to be segmented and reached in unique ways, with attention being paid to the messages in ads and to the products being offered. In fact, attention to all the details critical for successful target marketing is necessary.
According to the latest population estimates of 2002 provided by the U.S. Census, currently there are almost 37 million African-Americans, representing 12.7% of the total population of 288.4 million. And Census Bureau projections indicate that the share of African-Americans will grow to 13.3% in 2010, and 13.8% a decade later.
One of the most important demographic changes in this population is the large improvement in the socioeconomic profile of African-Americans. Results from the 2000 U.S. Census show that the median income of African-American households was $27,910, the highest ever recorded (though still less than that of the total population). And among married couples, more than half have incomes of at least $50,000.
In large part, the higher incomes of married couples have been achieved through both spouses working.
In part, these higher incomes are due to a sharp increase in education levels over the past several years. Today, a record eight in 10 African-Americans age 25 or older have graduated from high school, and 17% have achieved at least a bachelors degree. And about a million African-Americans have earned an advanced degree.
Incomes have also increased because of the economic boom of the 1990s. For African-Americans there has been a “bonus” effect as well: More than half of African-Americans (55%) live in the South, where the economic boom has been the strongest. Increasing incomes have also resulted in more African-Americans moving to the suburbs of large cities.
In addition, it is important to note that the African-American population is considerably younger than the population as a whole–the median age is 30.1 years, just over five years younger than the median of 35.5 years observed for the total population. And, like the total population, the African-American population is aging. In 2010, the median age of African-Americans is projected to increase to 32.3 years compared to 37.4 years for the total population.
What are some of the implications? Clearly, African-Americans (like the general population) cannot be treated as one homogeneous group. There are different segments within the African-American market.
For example, black women can be specifically targeted, not only because they head a third of all family households, but also because within married-couple households they tend to be the decision-maker.
Middle- and upper-income African-Americans need different marketing approaches. This is because this is the first generation of African-Americans to reach middle-class status in large numbers–and along with this economic success come aspirations for higher standards of living.