If an illegal immigrant isn’t counted, is she there?

February 5, 2010

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This past week, the top two Republican candidates vying for the Senate seat Mel Martinez will be vacating, engaged in a war of words over whether the Census should count illegal immigrants in its tally of the US population. The pragmatist, Charlie Christ, looked at the issue from the point of view of his current governor’s perch, arguing that not counting illegal immigrants would stem part of the flow of Federal dollars to the state (not surprising given his support for the stimulus bill last year), while the new poster child of the conservative movement in Florida, Marco Rubio, angled to gain political points with the party’s base by stating that illegal immigrants should not be counted.

It is all kind of a moot point because the Census count has already started, and I am not too interested in exploring the politics of it all in this forum, but the whole brouhaha got me wondering as to what would happen in the marketing sphere if Rubio’s point of view was somehow adopted by Congress or a future Administration.

Funding for Hispanic marketing in the US has been on the rise for quite some time, but not enough can be said about the boost in attention it received after the count of the 2000 Census showed that US Hispanics had become the country’s largest minority and were well on their way to leaving everyone else far behind. What would happen to marketing funds for Hispanic programs if all of a sudden the Census eliminated what could arguably be 20-25% of the Hispanic population in the United States? Would the lower figure become the new gauge of market size, and depress interest in the segment, or would marketers figure out a way to adapt and project for the real number of Hispanics living in the US. The issue might be compounded because so many of the geodemographic segmentation systems used by marketers in the US are based on Census data and cutting out illegal immigrants from those models would certainly skew the profile of Hispanic audiences. At least it looks like it will be another 10 years before the possibility arises of us having to wrestle with these answers.