The 2010 census count has confirmed what many policymakers and businesses already know: Latinos, the fastest growing population in America with a 43 percent growth in the last decade, are making their presence known in American society. The Latino population is now estimated at 50.5 million people representing 16.3 percent of the total U.S. population.
According to data from the Pew Hispanic Center, traditional Hispanic states such as California -- where the NBA Los Angeles Lakers occasionally don game jerseys that read, "Los Lakers" -- Texas, Florida and New York, continue to lead in the total number of Hispanics. But states such as South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky saw ten-year growth rates of well over 100 percent indicating that Latinos are very much a part of the national landscape. Much closer to home here in New York, the Latino population rose 8 percent and now makes up 29 percent of the total.
The fast pace of Latino population growth shows we are no longer another minority group, but rather, a "major minority," which has created a defining imprint on popular culture, politics and the economy. In New York, Latino influences are everywhere: in the food, in the music and in politics.
The Census numbers will be used to draw congressional districts and allocate state funding formulas in the request for federal dollars. In the private sector, this data will be used to make strategic decisions about business development, investment strategies, hiring plans and location of facilities. Hispanic marketers, eager to reach the crucial 18-35 consumer demographic, should take heed that the number of Latinos less than 35 years of age has grown a remarkable 51.5% since 1990.
In the same vein, when it comes to politics, education and other key areas, careful attention should be paid to how Latinos are engaged. How well will campaigns and candidates engage this eager young voting bloc as we head into the 2012 election? How many opportunities for more Latino office holders will arise after congressional districts are realigned due to the Census? How will the growth of Latino students, Latino teachers and professors impact the development of educational curriculum or how history and other topics are taught? And as the data continues to point to an ever growing Latino consumer base, how will businesses communicate and relate to this economically powerful, multi-cultural community? Last, and most importantly, WHO are the people behind these numbers?
The Latino community is not a homogenous group and for policy makers and businesses alike, this has profound implications. Businesses and politicians understand that the numbers don't lie: The Latino community is a force to be reckoned with and it will be responsive to those leaders and those businesses who embrace the diversity we have to offer.
Previously appeared in El Diario.