In 2015 Nielsen released Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse a report that focused on the increase buying power of African Americans earning >$60k/annually. The information on this group, which is growing at a rate faster than white counterparts would be seen as specifically relevant to businesses and industries hoping to increase profit margins. The report noted the increased diversity of Blacks in stating that 1 in every 11 were immigrants (They did not report data indicating how diverse this group is in terms of disabilities, religion or sexual orientation.) With a median average age of 31.4 yars and increased college enrollment rates it’s obvious that this group would have an increased proclivity for media consumption. (To me, media means sources of information.)
Bookstores are reported as the third highest basket ring for Blacks. “These households also exceed the basket ring of non-Hispanic Whites in department stores, toy stores, book stores, auto stores and dollar stores.”
Book Reading 2016 was a study indicating reading habits among adults. The only racial component of the report related that 69% of Blacks had read a book in any format in the past year. More women read than men and the percent of books read increased both with educational attainment and earned income.
Remember, Nielsen reported significantly growing numbers of Blacks in these categories.
While I can find data that indicates what format children and teens prefer to read and the increase in overall purchasing of teen books, I cannot find a socio-economic breakdown for children’s book sales. I believe the information is available behind a paywall and is probably in Nielsen 2016 Children’s Book Business Review.
There are lists out there of best selling children’s books in 2016, 2015 or of all times, but I classify them as unreliable sources of information until I know how this data is gathered. What is the source of the books sales? If a librarian orders a set of books from Baker and Taylor, are those counted toward book sales? Are all books stores and book jobbers counted, or is this list based upon an industry average? I mention these lists (in passing) because I’m not seen one list that mentions a book written by a person of color or a Native American. So, I ask how are these numbers obtained?
The best information I could get on multicultural books sales was a statement printed in Publishers Weekly.
Courtney Jones, v-p of multicultural growth and strategy at Nielsen, shared insights on the growth of multicultural consumers that puts very real data behind the cry for more diverse books. Jones showed that the largest sector of population growth in the U.S. is coming from the Hispanic communities, and she showed figures demonstrating a large growth in purchasing power among African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American communities. Perhaps most telling in the shift in demographics was the statistic Jones shared that today’s children under the age of nine are split demographically 50/50 between multicultural and white.
Jones also pointed to popular properties, in particular Doc McStuffins, which features an African-American protagonist, and is demonstrating resonance across all groups. Doc McStuffins is most popular among Asian-American children, but is highly popular among non-Hispanic whites, African-American, and Hispanic groups as well. Jones added, “If you create content that speaks to [specific] cultural segments,” the data shows that “it is resonating across all races and ethnicities.” Furthermore, Doc McStuffins, a female character, also has strong appeal for boys.
All this makes me wonder why the figures released today by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center indicate little to no growth in book by or about Native Americans or people of color and more specifically, it makes me question the decreasing number of books by African Americans and Latinx. And, why are only 1/3 of the books that feature African Americans written by them? The above data documents bountiful economics resources as well as strong book related spending habits, so what data are we not seeing?
Honestly, the data is no better with regards to #ownvoices when we look at Asian Americans or Native Americans. (What do you think the numbers would look like for LGBT+ or disabled people?) My interpretation of the data is continued colonization of children’s literature where marginalized people are not free to tell their own stories.