Report: Latinos Still Severely Underrepresented in Mainstream Media

Oct 28, 2021
3:14 PM

Photo by Thomas Wolf, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

While the headline may not surprise anyone, a new report commissioned by the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) reveals just how absent Latinos are in TV, film, journalism, and other mainstream media.

Instead of basing his analysis on a smaller sample, lead researcher Greg Eastman of the UCLA School of Applied Statistics took a census of “all primetime shows on broadcast, cable, and premium cable, as well as on the top five streaming services.” His team looked at “all original films on streaming plat­forms and the top 100 films of every year in theaters,” along with “each productions’ staff (including actors, writers, showrunners, and directors on Variety Insight, IMDbPro and every source of entertainment information) to identify Latino talent and highlight all areas of opportunity.”

A press release bills the results as the “first extensive report on the status of Latinos in media” —truth in advertising if ever there was such a thing.

Key takeaways from the report show that Latinos make up:

  • Only 2.9 percent of leads in TV and only 5 percent of leads in film
  • Only 3.7 percent of ensembles in TV and 3.4 percent of ensembles in film
  • Only 2.5 percent of showrunners
  • Only 4.4 percent of writers in film
  • And only 2.5 percent of TV directors and 6.7 percent of film directors

Pair those figures with the fact that not only do Latinos comprise 18.7 percent of the U.S. population —the largest ethnic minority group in the country— they also make up one in four moviegoers.

The U.S. Latino consumer market stands at a hefty $1.87 trillion, and that number is overshadowed by the Latino GDP, or what Latinos produce every year, which stands at $2.7 trillion.

Latino GDP grew 57 percent faster in the last 10 years than the overall economy and 70 percent faster than that of non-Latinos, making the U.S. Latino economy the seventh largest in the world, tied with France, and the third fastest growing GDP among the 10 largest in the world.

And those figures are bound to keep soaring. Latinos are 25 percent of the Gen Z population, born between 1997 and 2012. Some Gen Zers are adults now working their own jobs and spending their own money, but the bulk have yet to develop their economic muscles, much less flex them.

“Latinos are the largest minority in America and the biggest engine of demographic and economic growth,” said LDC Executive President Ana Valdez in a statement. “Latinos are also the youngest population, yet they are vastly underrepresented in mainstream entertainment content. That reality presents a lucrative business opportunity for those companies that recognize the population trend and act on it. The information presented in the report is meant to empower decision-makers to enhance their companies’ results and deliver increases in value and growth to their shareholders by reaching Latino audiences.”

Some Latinos resent arguments for diversity and inclusion based on economics, believing that the right of people to participate and be represented in any industry or field —or society in general— should not center on their profitability.

Then again it wasn’t Rosa Parks’ refusal to leave her seat that desegregated the buses of Montgomery, Alabama, but the subsequent boycott.

If we can’t convince the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans to give us our due, then we’ll appeal to their purses and wallets.


Hector Luis Alamo is the Senior Editor at Latino Rebels and hosts the Latin[ish] podcast. Twitter: @HectorLuisAlamo