Black millennials have made great progress in closing the digital divide. /Courtesy photo
Black millennials have made great progress in closing the digital divide. /Courtesy photo

A decade of economic and educational prosperity has propelled black America’s viral vanguard, led by 11.5 million digitally empowered persuaders.

Black millennials are 11.5 strong and leading a viral vanguard that is driving African-Americans’ innovative use of mobile technology and closing the digital divide, according to a new report from Nielsen titled, “Young, Connected and Black: African-American Millennials Are Driving Social Change and Leading Digital Advancement.”

With $162 billion in buying power and undisputed cultural influence, black millennials are using their power to successfully raise awareness of issues facing the African-American community and influence decisions shaping the world, the report’s authors said.

Media and brands are taking notice, creating campaigns and content that target this increasingly influential demographic with greater ad spends and more diverse programming.

The sixth in Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series focused on black consumers, “Young, Connected and Black,” paints a picture of a Black diaspora that is tech-savvy, socially and civically engaged, growing in population (46.3 million, or 14 percent of the U.S. population) and buying power (nearly $1.2 trillion in 2015), and optimistic about the future.

“We have entered a new era whereby technology has become a great equalizer,” Cheryl Grace, the senior vice president of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, said in a news release. “Black millennials are leading the way in their use of technology to impact change and get their voices heard.”

The 83.1 million U.S. millennials are considered a key voting bloc this November.

Black millennials represent 14 percent of all millennials and 25 percent of the total black population, the report noted.

The top five markets for black millennials by population are New York, Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia and South Florida cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the power of the Black electorate is a particular point of interest given the records set in 2012 when, bolstered by its millennial population, African-Americans had the highest rate of voter registration and turnout of any demographic group in the U.S., Nielsen officials said.

“African-American millennials are blazing trails to the center of the debate over matters that are paramount to their future success and safety — all as their influence over mainstream consumers grows,” said Deborah Gray-Young, managing partner of D. Gray-Young Inc., a multicultural marketing consulting firm and Nielsen External Advisory Council member.

“Nielsen continues to be the definitive source of independent third-party insights on consumers of color. This annual report is an essential tool for organizations looking to develop a deeper contextual understanding of the influence and economic power of Black consumers,” Gray-Young said.

The 2016 report delves into the spending and viewing habits of African-Americans overall and credits a voracious appetite for television content with the dramatic increase in diverse television programming. Between 2011 and 2015, broadcast network TV ad spend focused on black audiences — defined as ad dollars placed on programming with greater than 50 percent black viewers — increased by 255 percent. The top 10 TV shows among black millennials ages 18-24 and blacks 35 and older all had predominately black casts or lead actors who are key to the storyline such as “Empire,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “The Walking Dead.”

Other key findings from the report:

  • African-Americans are closing the digital divide
  • Black millennials are 25 percent more likely than all millennials to say they are among the first of their friends and colleagues to try new technology products; and
  • As smartphone owners, African-Americans (91 percent) are second only to Asian-Americans (94 percent).

Further, 91 percent of African-Americans say they access the internet on a mobile device, an increase from 86 percent in 2015, which further cements their status as digital leaders.

Overall, the black spending power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020 and, from 2004 to 20014, the number of black households with annual incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 increased 18 percent compared to 2 percent for the total United States.

For black households earning $100,000 or more annually, the increase between 2004 and 2014 was 95 percent, compared with 66 percent for the total population.

The share of black households with an income less than $25,000 declined from 43 percent of the total African-American population in 2004 to 37 percent in 2014.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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