Two weeks ago we discussed how the US population is moving inexorably to majority-minority status, where white, non-Hispanics will, eventually, make up less than 50% of the population. And last week, we explored how, overall, incomes are decreasing, especially in those peak spending years of 25 to 54, making family budgets tight (along with the ramifications for admissions and philanthropy).
This week, we are going to talk about both the shift towards a majority-minority population and the resultant ramifications for admissions and philanthropy.
When we looked at the U.S. Census Bureau’s "2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement," and focused in on the population projections, we noticed something huge: the predicted shift in population size will result in a notable shift in spending.
First, let’s look at the shift in population. Between 2010 and 2020, we see once again a dramatic shift in the population towards minorities, and a net decrease in the number of whites among those that are 25 to 54. Take a look:
Peak spending years 25 to 54: Shift in population size
So, for museums, most of which have audiences that are primarily white, this means that, nationwide, the base of visitors, especially in that crucial family audience, is shrinking. By 7%. That’s a lot, and makes maintaining audiences, especially at children’s museums and science centers, a challenge without much deeper penetration of minority audiences.
But there is another way we need to look at this. Money. Fewer people mean less money to spend on lots of things, including museum visits and philanthropy. Over the next ten years, aggregate earnings among whites 25 – 54 are projected to decrease by $258 billion – not because whites 25 to 54 are going to be making less money, just because there will be fewer of them.
Peak earning years 25 to 54: Aggregate earnings projections
Again, when most museums have member and donor basis that are primarily white, around 90%, this means that maintaining memberships and gifts in this age group will be a challenge unless there is significantly deeper penetration of minority audiences. But that is where we also a nice silver lining. Take a look at the increase in aggregate earnings from minorities. It adds up to $346 billion - more than making up for the decrease in whites. And, our projections are based on current aggregate earnings, so we’re likely projecting an excessively conservative gap. Their aggregate earnings will go up as more Hispanics and other minorities increase their overall rates of educational attainment.
The question is – can museums effectively reach out to minority audiences, and bring relevant and transformative experiences to their lives? Some museums have made great strides in reaching minorities, but we still see way too many whose core audiences are well below 10% minority. Those who don’t effectively reach minorities may well see their audiences, and income, disappear as our population changes.
What is your museum doing to reach out to young minorities and their families? We’d love to hear your best ideas and practices! To share your thoughts, simply click on “comments” below. (If you are reading this from your e-mail subscription to the blog, please go to our blog's website to add a comment.)