By Gail Mitchell

Billboard, September 23, 2017 —

“We have power, we have influence, we can do things others have told us we can’t do.” So declared Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) upon accepting the Social Humanitarian Award at BET’s 2017 Black Girls Rock! celebration in August.

And Nielsen’s new report focusing on black females — “African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic” — underscores that declaration. Chief among the report’s findings: African-American women’s consumer preferences and brand loyalties are propelling total black spending power toward a record $1.5 trillion by 2021.

          Part of Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series, the report was introduced at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual Legislative Conference (Sept. 21) in Washington, D.C.  by Waters and Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s senior VP of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement.
          Borrowing part of its title from the #BlackGirlMagic movement, the report provides insights on various subjects under three sections: Trendsetting Consumerism and Consumption; Influence on Pop Culture; and Young, Independent and Self-Made. The data presented in the report encompasses everything from education, economic and entrepreneurship gains, social and digital media to traditional media, consumer purchasing power and influence in terms of music, television and fashion.
          For instance, black women 18 and older spend more time watching live TV, listening to the radio and using multimedia devices than total U.S. women. Radio remains a strong medium for attracting black women with a 92 percent penetration versus television’s 90 percent. This audience segment also clocks an average weekly listening time of 14 hours and seven minutes as compared to other female listeners at 12 hours and 52 minutes. And when looking at the top 20 radio stations among black females nationwide, Urban Adult Contemporary claimed the most stations with 11.
          On the television front, black women spend an average viewing time of 51 hours and 36 minutes per week. The top five shows among black women 18-plus during the 2016-2017 season were Fox’s Empire followed by BET’s The New Edition Story, Fox’s Star, OWN’s The Have and the Have Nots and VH1’s Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. And noting how R&B and hip-hop have “become inextricably intertwined” over the last decade, the report reiterates Nielsen’s earlier announced news that the combined genre is now the top music genre in terms of consumption: 25 percent versus rock’s 23 percent thanks to streaming’s burgeoning growth.

The consumer segment is driving black buying power toward a projected $1.5 trillion by 2021.

          “Understanding how black women’s values affect their buying decisions has long been a marketing necessity,” said Nielsen’s Grace in a release announcing the report. “Now marketers must also recognize the intercultural influence of black women on the general market as an increasingly vital part of how all women see themselves, their families and the rest of the world.”
Among other key findings revealed in the report:
          Black women comprise 14 percent of all U.S. women and 52 percent of all African-Americans with an average age of 35.1; ages 35–49 have the highest income within the black female cohort.
• 64 percent enroll in college right out of high school, and 23 percent over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher (up from 18 percent in 2005).
• The number of businesses majority-owned by black women grew 67 percent between 2007 and 2012, compared to 27 percent for all women.
• 64 percent of black women agree their goal is to make it to the top of their profession (95 percent higher than non-Hispanic white women).
• 80 percent of black women say they own a smartphone.
• 14 percent of black women say they use social media for three to four hours in a day on average.
• 43 percent of black women say they like to share their opinions about products and services by posting reviews and ratings online.
• 60 percent of black women agree they are more likely to purchase brands that support a cause they care about.
          The complete “African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic” report can be found here. For future updates, visit