Engaging Young Latines: What Matters to Them in Today’s United States
septembre 27, 2023
Exploring Identity, Diversity, and Participation amongst the Latine Community
“The Latino Community is not a monolith.” We’ve said it, we’ve heard it – but what does it really mean? As the Latine* community continues to grow and evolve in the United States, political analysts and marketing experts alike have their eyes on this demographic to better understand who they are and how to engage them.
I’m first-generation Colombian and third-generation Jewish American – a blend of cultures that didn’t raise too many eyebrows growing up in multicultural Brooklyn, NY. My great-aunt would bring buñuelos to holiday dinners to put on the table alongside the traditional challah, my sister and I learned Spanish in a classroom, and sadly, my first time in Colombia was my sophomore year of college. In an attempt to gain greater cultural literacy that felt out of reach due to my family history and experience with assimilation, I studied Latin American politics, spent a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, and now, I speak with a Spanish tutor based in Bogota every Friday morning! Recently, my sister and I learned that it wasn’t political conflict that brought our great-aunt to America – instead, it was a post-breakup glow-up that inspired her to pack her bags and move to New York City in the late 60s.
My family story might not be the one represented in movies and television shows, but these types of stories are dime a dozen. From the Cuban community in Miami to the Puerto Rican community in NYC and the Salvadorean community in Los Angeles and everywhere in between, our experiences are diverse and continuously evolving. In fact, the Latine community is one of the youngest and fastest-growing demographics in the United States – today, more than 1 in 4 Gen Z is Latine! As the demographic – and the conversation – grows, a more intersectional understanding of the Latine community must as well.
Today, 20.2m Latines identify as more than one race, demonstrating the truly multicultural nature of the community.
Latine doesn’t look or sound like just one archetype, and as more and more thought-leaders disrupt the very concept of Latinidad and mestizaje, Afro-Latine and Asian-Latine populations in the United States are growing in number and visibility. Still, the Latine community in the United States continues to experience racial, ethnic, and anti-immigrant discrimination, as well as structural and institutional barriers to inclusion. This is exacerbated for Afro-Latines and Indigenous communities, and impacts everything from economic mobility to health outcomes to voting access to educational opportunities. At this moment, anti-immigrant sentiment is proliferating once again as certain political actors build their platforms on furthering displacement and hatred. But despite these very real challenges, the Latine community is growing, expanding, and making their voices heard on the issues that matter to them.
As Purpose leans into engaging Latine audiences in our campaigns and program work, we’ve used an intersectional research and engagement approach to find actionable insights. Here’s a small preview of what we are learning to help inform our work and partnerships.
Young Latines are leaning into cultural pride and looking for true representation beyond stereotypes
Research shows us that many Latines view themselves as cultural stewards, and value the importance of passing down culture, customs, and language to the next generation. Young Latines aren’t interested in assimilation. Two-thirds of them were born in the United States, but they are celebrating their roots and history more than ever. Young Latines are making a big effort to stay connected with their culture and the Spanish language, making an effort to learn and speak Spanish, utilizing media, and engaging in nuanced dialogue centered around Latine identity, culture, and customs. One proof point? The TikTok hashtag #FamiliaLatina has over 2 billion views.
Despite the size, strength, and diversity of the Latine community, true and inclusive representation is lagging in mass media. Even as stars like Bad Bunny and Karol G dominate billboard charts, representation in broadcast television and Hollywood is disproportionately low to population share. What little representation does exist tends to trade on stereotypes rather than represent a diverse reality. Instead of relying on Hollywood to tell our stories, the Latine community is turning to streaming – especially Spanish language content – podcasts, and radio to tap into a sense of community and representation and to find the stories they crave.
Young Latines are socially activated – and bringing their community with them
It’s not just media where Latines are looking for diverse representation. It’s in politics, too. When political analysts and news outlets referred to us as the “sleeping giant”, they ignored decades of political action, hundreds of prolific Latine leaders, and millions of activated citizens already hard at work to make change in their community. Despite facing significant structural barriers to participation, the Latine community makes their voices heard. Engaging young Latines will be key in re-building these structures – first-time Latine voters are outpacing non-Latine first-time voters in key states such as Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas. 40% of these young, voting Latines are worried about backlash for racial and ethnic minorities after the 2024 election. Declining religiosity is just one factor impacting how Latines engage in social issues, including reproductive rights. 68% of Latines voters say abortion should be legal, and consider abortion and reproductive freedom a top five voting issue. As a community disproportionately impacted by climate change, young Latines are stepping up and speaking out about climate action, reaching out to their peers and elders in their community. 31% of Latines say that a family member or friend got them involved in climate change efforts, with many saying this encouragement came from younger family members!
Strides in education and entrepreneurship – despite structural barriers
The future is in good hands. Despite significant structural barriers, Latines are making strides in education and entrepreneurship. This is a winning achievement, but the student loan crisis and lack of access to resources can significantly hinder young Latines’ chances of sustainable upward mobility and their chances of striving economically. Unfortunately, Latine students are also one of the populations most burdened by student loans, a modern-day wealth tax. We must look at the structures in place and redesign them to facilitate access to upward mobility, security, and success. For entrepreneurs too – Latines are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs and small business owners, with Latina owners leading the wave. Latine-owned businesses are creating jobs, generating wealth for the larger US economy, and serving wide audiences. Despite all of this, Latine entrepreneurs and innovative hopefuls still struggle to access the capital necessary to grow and scale their businesses.
Looking Ahead: The Path to a Stronger, More Inclusive Latine Future
As we continue to engage with the Latine population, we need to continuously move toward a more expansive and inclusive view of this dynamic demographic. We’ll need to lean into messaging and stories that celebrate and amplify our cultural heritage, with a sharp eye for specificity and details that are true to life, not stereotypes. Finally, we’ll need deep audience engagement to understand how Latine communities across the country are engaging as political actors, what messaging is resonating with them, what needs we can help them meet, and what goals we can help them achieve.
To do so, we should be asking ourselves some big, inspiring questions:
- What does the Latine community need? What resources can we connect audiences with? What barriers should we work together to remove? How can we work in partnership to enable Latine audiences and leaders to create the changes they desire for their community?
- Where is the Latine community poised/positioned to create impact? As powerhouses in culture, politics, and entrepreneurship, where is the increased opportunity for Latine community members to step up and into their power?
- How can we work with the community to leverage the power, influence and growth of the Latine community as a whole while also recognizing and embracing its diversity?
- How will the upcoming election impact the Latine community? How can we best prepare and work together to ensure that rights are protected – and expanded?
Purpose has begun to explore these questions with our partners as we’ve worked on mis-and disinformation campaigns, social impact platforms designed to address Gen Z loneliness and LGBTQ+ youth safety and well-being, and election readiness strategies. We’re evolving alongside our audience – and we’d love for you to join us.
*A note on language: there are a plethora of words used to describe the Latine community – Hispanic, Latino/a, Latinx, and Latine. Every person and community might have a different preference. We have chosen to use the gender-neutral Latine in this article.
for Equity & Evidence