Audience Profile: African Americans

Posted on September 1, 2023 by Media Culture

The African American community represents a diverse and dynamic segment of the U.S. population. With its rich history and culture, this community has made significant contributions to the fabric of American society. For advertisers looking to engage this audience, recognizing and understanding their unique preferences, behaviors, and trends is crucial. This recognition is not only a testament to the influence of this demographic but also an essential step towards crafting more effective and inclusive marketing strategies.

This article delves into the demographics, media preferences, and key traits of this audience, offering a comprehensive view of this dynamic group. For additional detail, and for a full list of sources, please make sure to download the full report: Exploring the African American Consumer: Audience Insights Report.

/// Demographics

The African American community has always been a cornerstone of the American demographic landscape. According to the 2021 Census, this community has grown to encompass roughly 47 million individuals, accounting for 14% of the U.S. population.


A notable 56% of African Americans reside in the South. This regional concentration has historical roots and implications, influencing regional politics, culture, and economic trends. The South's rich African American heritage, along with its significant demographic presence, underscores the importance for advertisers to understand and cater to the localized preferences of this community. Texas, Florida, and Georgia emerge as the predominant states, with Texas and Florida each housing 8% of the African American population and Georgia housing an additional 7%.

However, when assessing representation relative to the region’s total population, Washington, D.C. stands unparalleled, with African Americans making up 47% of the population. Mississippi and Louisiana follow, with African Americans constituting 39% and 33% of their populations, respectively. Shifting the focus to metropolitan areas, the tri-state region of New York-Newark-Jersey City boasts the highest concentration of African Americans, accounting for 8% of the demographic. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell is next with 5%, while the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria region accounts for 4%.


Education has always been a beacon of progress and empowerment. Over the last few decades, the African American community has made significant strides in this domain. From 2000 to 2021, the percentage of African Americans with a college degree or higher surged from 15% to 24%. While this figure still lags the general population rate of 34%, the momentum is undeniable. A deeper analysis reveals that 40.2% of African American millennials have secured a college degree, a notable rise from the 29.0% of African American Gen Xers.

Household Composition

In terms of marital and household dynamics, 51% of African Americans have never been married, a figure that is 50% higher than the general population. However, those that do marry tend to do so at a later age than the general population. The median age of first marriage for single-race African American men is 33, and for women, it’s 32. This contrasts with the general population’s median ages of 30.6 for men and 28.6 for women.

The average household size for African Americans mirrors the general U.S. population at 2.5 members. A significant 36% of African Americans live in households with their children. Additionally, 13% live with their spouse or partner, while another 13% live alone. It's noteworthy that African Americans are twice as likely to live with their grandchildren and 51% more likely to reside with their siblings compared to the broader U.S. population.

Ethnic Diversity

Like any community, African Americans represent a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. Of the 47 million, 39.3 million identify as single race (83%), 5.2 million as multiracial/non-Hispanic (11%), and 2.8 million as Hispanic (6%). This diversity extends to their origins as well. While 90% of African Americans are U.S. natives, the remaining 10% are foreign born. Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Dominican Republic represent half of all foreign-born African Americans.

/// Media Preferences

Media consumption patterns can provide valuable data-driven insights into the preferences of a community. Analyzing the African American community's media choices can help advertisers understand their evolving interests and habits. This section presents data on the various media channels and platforms that are popular within this community.

Digital Landscape

The African American community has a significant online presence. A majority engage with online videos on topics like Jobs, Education, and Business. Mobile apps, especially those related to Entertainment/Lifestyle and Food & Drink, are popular. Notably, 33% are willing to pay full price for the latest tech, and customer-written reviews are the top source of tech information.

Social Media Dynamics

Social media is a hub for the African American audience. TikTok is overrepresented within the African American community, followed by Instagram and Twitter. While platforms like YouTube and Facebook are widely used, they index lower than the top platforms. Importantly, 41% turn to social media for new ideas but always conduct further research. The platforms also serve as spaces for advocacy, with many discussing societal issues and sharing their content.

Television and Streaming

BET is the top linear TV network for African Americans, with thrillers and cartoons being popular genres. Top linear programs include Snowfall, Hot Bench, and Around the Horn. Streaming platforms, especially Hulu and YouTube TV, are gaining traction, with programs like Wu-Tang: An American Saga on Hulu, The Boys on Prime Video, and Law & Order: SVU, also on Prime Video, leading the way. Binge-watching is a common trend, with a significant portion of the audience indulging in it.

Radio, Podcasts, and Print

Radio remains cherished, with genres like Hip-Hop & R&B, Jazz, and Christian and Gospel being favorites. Most popular streaming audio platforms include Soundcloud, YouTube Music, and Apple Music. Podcasts are on the rise on platforms like Pandora, Google Play, and Audible, with African Americans showing a higher preference for podcasts related to Race and Ethnicity. In print, magazines like Ebony and Essence are preferred, with a notable portion still consuming print newspapers like the New York Post and the Washington Post.

Related: The Streaming Revolution and Its Profound Impact on African American Media Consumption


/// Key Traits

Common trends and preferences among many African Americans extend to a range of key traits. These traits, encompassing brand loyalty, shopping preferences, technology use, political and social perspectives, health and wellness, and religious beliefs, offer a holistic understanding of this influential demographic. The following section delves into these traits, providing a detailed exploration of their behaviors and attitudes.

Retail and Brand Preferences

Retailers such as Burlington Coat Factory, Family Dollar, and Food Lion see significant patronage from African Americans. When it comes to apparel, brands like Timberland, Foot Locker, and Calvin Klein are popular choices. In the automobile sector, luxury brands like Mercedes, Cadillac, and BMW are favored. For dining out, pizza restaurants like Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, and Papa John's are frequented most. When traveling, Hyatt Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts are preferred options. Lastly, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines are the top choices for air travel.

Shopping Behavior and Preferences

Loyalty programs, customer service, and reputation are significant factors influencing shopping decisions. Shopping for organic foods, in-store browsing with online purchasing, and online shopping with in-store pickup are popular shopping behaviors. Aesthetics, innovation, and safety are the most valued product attributes. Inversely, the primary reason for African American dissatisfaction with their purchases is a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The majority prefer a mix of online and physical shopping, with a preference for innovative and exciting retail experiences. Video advertisements on TV, sales associates, and online advertisements are the primary sources of advertising influence.

Technology Use and Preferences

African Americans show a preference for streaming over cable or broadcast, with a significant portion of TV time spent on streaming platforms. They are also more likely to watch TV shows and movies on smartphones, tablets, or laptops. In addition to watching videos, smartphones are predominantly used for shopping and browsing the internet. Mobile phones, laptops, and tablets are the most used electronics.

Political and Social Perspectives

In 2022, a significant portion of African Americans were eligible to vote, with a significant majority identifying as Democrats. This political leaning is evident in their views on key issues such as immigration, abortion, climate change, and same-sex marriage. Gun control and racial equality are paramount concerns. Concerning racial issues, a significant majority believe racism against Black people is widespread in the U.S. and feel the criminal justice system requires major reforms.

Health and Wellness

African Americans have a life expectancy of nearly 71 years, the lowest relative to White, Hispanic, and Asian American groups. They also face higher risks for several health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, and obesity. Health insurance coverage is lower compared to other groups, but African Americans are more likely to receive recommended cancer screenings.

Faith and Religion

A significant majority of African Americans identify as Historically Black Protestant. A strong belief in God is prevalent, with a majority considering religion very important in daily life. Regular attendance at religious services, daily prayers, and using religion as a source of guidance on right and wrong are common practices.

/// Conclusion

The African American community, characterized by a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs, plays a significant role in the American demographic landscape. As this audience profile reveals, understanding the nuances of their preferences, behaviors, and trends is crucial for meaningful engagement. Whether it's the advancements in education, the embrace of digital platforms, or the deep-rooted values in faith and social justice, the African American community continues to shape and enrich America’s cultural fabric.

Moving forward, it's imperative to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of the African American community. For advertisers, tapping into this rich dataset is key to developing campaigns that effectively connect with this audience. As the African American demographic continues to grow and evolve, businesses that are equipped with the right insights and strategies stand to benefit immensely from this dynamic market segment.

Contact Media Culture today to begin engaging with your target audience!

For deeper insights and data into marketing to African American audiences, download our comprehensive Audience Insights Report below.


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