Hispanic Sector Finding Affluence in Owning Businesses

A home listed for sale Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008, in San Dimas, Calif. (National Journal)

Ana Chico is part of the burgeoning affluent and highly educated Hispanic sector in the United States. With a household income of $140,000 per year, a two-story home in the Los Angeles suburb of San Dimas, and a master's degree in education from a private university, Chico and her husband, Sal, who owns his own business, say there's a general sense among the public that Hispanics "all live in poverty."

But the latest U.S. census figures show that Hispanic households with an annual income of at least $100,000 surpassed the 1.6 million mark in 2010.

The census identifies affluent households as those with a median annual income of at least that amount. Those with household incomes between $75,000 and $99,999 accounted for an additional 1.3 million, according to the census's five-year American Community Survey.

A separate 2012 study, "Upscale Latino Consumers in the U.S.," found that about 8.2 million Hispanic adults are living in households with incomes of at least $75,000.

In defining the affluent Hispanic class, according to a survey by Costa IMC, a marketing firm, about 50 percent have an associate's degree or higher; are between the ages of 35 and 54; and live in households slightly larger than the U.S. median of 2.59 people.

Felipe Korzenny, director for the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University, said that most of these affluent Hispanics are clustered in states such as Florida, California, Texas and New Mexico.

"The affluence of Hispanics is growing significantly, and I think we're going to see a lot more," Korzenny said.

And it's entrepreneurs like Chico's husband who are helping to drive this segment of the Hispanic population to new levels of financial attainment. Often as entrepreneurs or small-business owners, they create jobs in the local communities. Sal Chico's manufacturing enterprise, AAA Metal Stamping, employs 30 workers who make parts for machines and airplanes.

Chico's business is representative of a boom in Hispanic businesses, the fastest-growing segment among U.S. small businesses. From 2002 to 2007, for instance, the number of Hispanic-owned companies grew by nearly 44 percent to 2.3 million. There are currently about 3 million of them, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Korzenny said that entrepreneurs like Chico often create their own businesses as a way to maintain a work-life. "If you have your own business work out of your house, then you can take care of your kids," Korzenny said.

For Chico's husband, it was important to help his children with homework and help coach Little League when the couple's children were young.

"His company is right where he wanted. If it had grown any more, it would have taken away from family time," his wife said.