Nielsen 2016 Report: Black Millennials Close the Digital Divide

Black Millennials are 11.5 million strong and leading a viral vanguard that is driving African-Americans’ innovative use of mobile technology and closing the digital divide. Nielsen (No. 41 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) highlights this group in a new report called “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 Black community and influence decisions shaping our world. 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% 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,” said Cheryl Grace (ne Pearson-McNeil), Senior Vice President, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement. “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% of all Millennials and 25% of the total Black population. The top five markets for Black Millennials (by population) are New York, Atlanta, Chicago, D.C. and South Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale). Weeks before the 2016 presidential race, 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 voter turnout of any demographic group in the U.S.

“African-American Millennials are blazing trails to the center of the debate over matters that are paramount to their future success and safetyall as their influence over mainstream consumers grows,” said Deborah Gray-Young, Managing Partner, 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.”

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% Black viewers) increased by 255%. The Top 10 TV shows among Black Millennials 1824 and Blacks 35+ all had predominately Black casts or lead actors who are key to the storyline (e.g. “Empire,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” and “The Walking Dead”).

Some other key highlights from the report:

African-Americans are Closing the Digital Divide

– African-American Millennials are 25% more likely than all Millennials to say they are among the first of their friends/colleagues to try new technology products.

– As smartphone owners, African-Americans (91%) are second only to Asian-Americans (94%).

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

A Viral Vanguard: Social media engagement

– 55% of Black Millennials report spending at least one hour a day on social networking sites, which is 6% higher than all Millennials, while 29% say they spend at least three hours a day, 9% higher than all Millennials.

– 28% of African Americans age 35+ say they use social networking sites for at least one hour per day, which is 2% higher than the total population in this age group. Ten percent of African-Americans age 35+ say they use social networking sites for at least three hours per day, which is 2% higher than the total population age 35+).

Voracious Content Consumers

– African-American Millennials watch nearly 33 hours of live and DVR time-shifted television per week, about 12 and half more hours per week than total Millennials.

– African-American Millennials spend about two hours more per week (eight hours and 29 minutes versus six hours and 28 minutes) using the internet on PCs, and about an hour more weekly (three hours and 47 minutes versus two hours and 33 minutes) watching video on PCs than total Millennials.

Education advancements of Black Millennials

– 89% of African Americans ages 2534 completed high school, compared to 77% of Black Americans ages 55 and older.

– 21% of African Americans ages 2534 have an associate’s college degree or higher, versus 17% of those who are 55 and older.

African-American incomes and spending power

– Overall Black spending power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020.

– From 2004 20014 the number of Black households with annual incomes of $50,000 – $75,000 increased 18% compared to 2% for the total U.S. For Black households earning $100,000+ annually, the increase between 2004 and 2014 was 95%, compared with 66% for the total population.

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

For more details and insights, download the 2016 report, Young, Connected and Black: African-American Millennials Are Driving Social Change and Leading Digital Advancement.

Join the conversation on Facebook (Nielsen Community) and Twitter (@NielsenKnows) using #NielsenKnows.

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