You wouldn't know it from watching television or movies, where they're one of the most underrepresented groups, but Latinas are becoming a uniquely potent cultural and market force in the United States, according to a new report from consumer data giant Nielsen.
A vast majority (77 percent) of the growth of the U.S. Latina population in the span between 2005 and 2015 came from American births, not from immigration, according to Nielsen's Latina 2.0: Fiscally Conscious, Culturally Influential & Familia Forward, released during Hispanic Heritage Month. One in four American girls is now Latina. Nearly one in five (17 percent) of the American female population is now Latina.
The data have implications for American politics and culture at a time when race, ethnicity and immigration status are dominating the national debate.
"This report shows the future for Latinas in the United States is brighter than ever," U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez of southeast L.A. County said via email. "Latinas contribute every day to our economic success. Access to more education opportunities paired with an entrepreneurial spirit have helped spur their success."
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Between 2013 and 2015, three out of four Latinas went to college immediately after high school, according to Nielsen. That compares with slightly more than half (56 percent) of Latino men. In a recent five-year span, the number of Latina-owned business in the United States grew an astounding 87 percent, according to the report. That compares to 27 percent total growth for women-owned firms.
The data show that Latinas are integrating, but that doesn't mean they're giving up the Spanish language. "Although 34 percent are foreign-born, 74 percent of Latinas over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home, with 26 percent speaking solely English at home," according to the report. And yet "at least 81 percent of U.S. Hispanic females speak English well," it states.
Of course, the Latina population continues to face challenges. A USC report on Hollywood diversity earlier this year found that of 900 top-grossing films examined over a 10-year span, only one had a Latina director. UCLA's latest annual Hollywood Diversity Report found that only 3 percent of speaking roles in 168 theatrical films in 2015 went to Latinas. A report earlier this year from the nonprofit Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) found that Latinas in L.A. County earn an average of 37 cents compared with a white man's dollar.
"There is still more progress to be made to close the staggering wage gap Latinas face," Sanchez said. "The future of our country depends on the success of Latinas."