Still, companies will count on growing Latino household formation to sell their products.
“If you don’t reach out to the Hispanic consumer, you cannot make it,” says Alvaro Cabal, Ford’s manager in charge of Hispanic communications, in Dallas, Texas.
“From the iPhone to Android, from cars to houses to sausages, that is the reality. It is going to be a huge population,” he says.
Ford began to see the increase in Hispanic car buyers years ago and structured sales and marketing efforts toward them, he says.
It is paying off. The Dearborn, Michigan-based firm’s light-duty vehicle sales volume to Hispanics rose about 25 percent this year through June compared with a 9.7 percent increase in total sales, according to Polk, a Michigan-based research company.
“This population represents the new America,” says Magda Yrizarry, chief talent and diversity officer at Verizon in New York.
“Both as an employer and as a company that is responsible to its shareholders, you have to be able to monitor and gain share” of both their spending and their talent, she says.
Verizon recognized the importance of its Hispanic customers in the 1990s, Yrizarry says.
Now, 11 percent of the company’s workforce is Hispanic; it markets specifically to Latino consumers and trains its installation and in-store teams to work with them. It targets Hispanics who are proficient in Spanish and those who are not, rolling out an ad this year with Jennifer Lopez speaking English in one version and Spanish in another.
Yrizarry says Verizon needs a workforce competent in science and engineering and is “concerned broadly” about technology acumen among US students. Low college degree attainment by Hispanics limits the pool of candidates that the company can hire, she says.
Verizon is a sponsor of the National Academy Foundation, which promotes industry-focused curricula at the high-school level.
“In a growing economy we will need extra workers,” says Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center.
“More than half of the new workers employers will work with will be Latino. Without a four-year college degree, they are going to have a difficult time in those upper-echelon managerial jobs,” he says.
Fry’s research shows Hispanics making some gains. The number of 18-to-24-year-olds was a record 16.5 percent share of all college enrolments last year compared with 11 percent in 2006.
High-school completion rates reached 76 percent last year, also the highest on record. Associate degrees obtained by Hispanics rose to 112,211 in 2010, up from 97,921 the previous year and 51,563 in 2000, his research shows.
Yet a conversation with Ramos shows the numerous obstacles to getting through high school and into college.
Before his friend Miguel or “Mickey” Hernandez died of a stab wound to the chest in November 2010, gangs prowled the neighborhoods and their members were also in the schools, he says.
“You had to watch your back. It was really tough,” he says, adding that the violence seems to have subsided.
He says he lives in a house with seven other people. Finding a place to study was difficult. His brother is a drummer. His sister has two small children. His family does not have the Internet, making his high-school studies and college applications, financial aid applications and job searching difficult.