Actress Issa Rae. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
Ray Tamarra — GC Images/Getty Images
By Ellen McGirt
September 21, 2017

In a new report, Nielsen explores the consumer behavior of black women and finds an independently-minded demographic that has embraced digital technologies. Black women are using their reclaimed time, money and voices to enrich their families, communities and each other. They’re also very ambitious.

African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic was unveiled today at an event in Washington, D.C. that featured Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The report, which marks only the second time Nielsen has focused on the consumer behavior of black women, found that black households are on track to spend some $1.5 trillion by 2021.

Some key findings:

  • 64% of black women agree their goal is to make it to the top of their profession (95% higher than non-Hispanic white women)
  • 55% agree a company’s environmental record is important in their purchasing decisions (13% higher than non-Hispanic white women)
  • 58% agree that they don’t mind giving up their personal time for work (20% higher than non-Hispanic white women)
  • 49% of black women say that they enjoy learning about financial products or services from others, and that they regularly read financial news or financial publications (34% higher than non-Hispanic white women)
  • 59% of Black women agree they are willing to pay more 
for a product that is environmentally safe (2% higher than non-Hispanic white women)
  • 58% agree
 they are willing to give up convenience in return for a product that
is environmentally safe (13% higherthan non-Hispanic white women)
  • Black donors gave away 25% more of their incomes than white donors, and nearly two-thirds of black households make charitable donations, worth a total of about $11 billion per year. (Stat courtesy of W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors)

“Black women are voracious consumers of video and other digital content, and are leaders even in more traditional media categories,” says Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement for Nielsen. “Radio is the big surprise, with a 92% penetration,” just ahead of television, which has a 90% penetration. Black women remain big fans of magazines as well, but “consume more multimedia content on our devices than any other category of women.”

Black women as both consumers and creators will be a great leveler in the future, suggests Grace. One example is Issa Rae, whose trailblazing work on YouTube was picked up by HBO for the award-winning Insecure series. Another is #OscarsSoWhite, a hashtag and protest movement created by activist April Reign, that successfully challenged the overrepresentation of white performers and creators in the Academy. “We are really seeing the impact that the social [and creative] movements are having,” she says. “Corporations can’t afford not to pay attention to black women online anymore.”

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