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Tom: A very interesting topic today: we are talking about the changing profile of America’s Black consumers.

 Mellody: We certainly are, Tom! Nielsen recently released a report on the growing influence of Black households in the United States, and the results are really quite stunning. Across a broad range of topics, Black Americans are making their presence felt as consumers and growth agents. This is especially true for Black families in the middle and high income brackets. overall, the report points to the major – and in some aspects outsized – role that Black americans play in the economy, and I thought we should explore that.

Tom: We certainly should! What did you find most interesting?

 Mellody: There were a few items that stuck out, but the big one was income growth rates. African-American income growth rates outpaced those of non-Hispanic whites at every annual household income level above $60,000, and the largest increase for African-American households occurred in the number of households earning over $200,000, with an increase of 138%, compared with a total population increase of 74%. That is a really incredible comparison, and it is key to understanding the influence that Black consumers have on a number of sectors and trends.

For example, income growth leads us to consumption patterns, and the average dollar amount spent per household annually for African-Americans with household incomes of $100,000+ shows the incredible influence our community wields in some key industries. Take toy stores: Black families spend 40% more than the general population at toy stores. Bookstores are similar, with Black households spending 32% more. In the auto sector, upper income Black households spend 15% more than their peers, and 14% more at department stores. All of this means that these industries would be smart to take their leads from our community when it comes to advertising and marketing, and product development.

 Tom: So Black America stood out as key consumers in many ways. What else was notable in the report?

 Mellody: The incredible depth of engagement Black America has with media and entertainment. Take television: each week, compared to all americans, African-american adults spend 42% more time watching TV. The same trends hold for other means of media consumption. Black Americans spend 13% more time on the computer, and 15% more time on a smartphone than any other demographic. And that last number is not surprising, as 83% of Black americans own a smartphone, compared to just 61% of the general population.

And this consumption has also led to new channels of influence as well. This year has seen media consumption combine with social events and demographic trends to create powerful cultural movements. Look no farther than Twitter, where some of the major hashtags have included #blacklivesmatter with 4,756,536 mentions, #ferguson with 2,421,801 mentions, and #freddiegray with 2,087,080 mentions. in 2015, the impact of Black america on a broad range of industries, particularly in television, music and social media, as well as on social issues, is truly massive.

Tom: What is driving this momentum?

Mellody: There are numerous factors that underpin these trends, but a few stand out. The first is that the push to get our kids a good education has started bearing fruit. For example, while Black kids still graduate high school at a lower rate than the general populous, those who do graduate are actually more likely than the general population to enroll in college, with 70.9% of high school graduates doing so.

Secondly, Black America is young. The average age of African-Americans is 31.4 years old, compared to 36.7 years for the total population. A younger population has meant that young Black individuals are more influential than their parents’ generation in creating and harnessing mainstream trends, as well as being key consumer demographics.

Finally, in the past few years, Black america has seen an influx of diverse, educated and affluent immigrants that is helping to amplify Black political and economic influence across the country. Black immigrants now account for 8.7% of the nation’s Black population, nearly triple their share in 1980. Our community is no longer as monolithic in its experience as it once was, and as the profile of our community expands, and so too does our impact as consumers and stakeholders.

Tom: Very interesting to learn about these developments. Thanks for joining us, Mellody!

 Mellody: Great to be here, Tom!

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