U.S. Census: People of Color Drive U.S. Population Growth. What does it means for the toy industry?

Multi color human eye concept. Many different color eyes from various people

The report marks the first time the absolute number of people who identify as White alone has shrunk since a census started being taken in 1790. The number of people identifying as non-Hispanic White and no other race dropped by 5.1 million people, to 191.7 million, a decrease of 2.6 percent.

Washington post, “Census data shows the number of White people in the U.S. fell for first time since 1790,” Tara Bahrampour Tara Bahrampour


When you envision the child who plays with the toy you designed, manufactured, promoted, or sold, how do you imagine how they look? That’s a question that may be essential in assuring that you are creating products, packaging, and advertising that fits the image of the average 21st-century child.

According to just-released census data, 21st century America looks a lot different. We are a multi-everything nation with the white population dropping from 63.7 percent ten years ago to 57.8 percent. Significantly to the toy industry, the number of children under 18 and identified as people of color now represent 52.7 percent of the population.

Many of us can remember a time, not that long ago, when toy packaging featured little white children with blonde hair and blue eyes. In the eyes of the 20th century toy industry, that was how children looked.

We have made progress but most of us picture children as they appear in our families, our associates and close friends. That’s a problem because it impacts, subliminally, how we go about designing toys and their packaging.

The largest and most steady gains were among Hispanics, who doubled their population share over the past three decades to 62.1 million people, or 18.7 percent, in 2020 and who are believed to account for half of the nation’s growth since 2010

Based upon the latest census figures, it is increasingly essential that we think beyond our worlds, particularly true for the toy industry. Why? Because we are an overwhelmingly white industry. I have been in this business for a long time, and I have seen little change in the faces of those I see at trade shows (remember those) and industry events.

What can we do? We can work to make the toy industry’s membership reflect the country’s population.

How do we accomplish that? By assuring that more people of color are in positions in which they have a voice about the products we create.

Accomplishing that is not going to be easy. As I have written before, the toy industry has an intriguing problem. Most graduating students of any color do not think of the toy industry as a career path. Think about it, when you tell someone what you do, their typical answer consists of two sentences: “That sounds like fun,” and ” how did you do that?” It is fun, at times, and we got the job because we applied for it.

The toy industry needs to be on campuses promoting and recruiting. Not just for designers but positions in accounting, logistics, operations, and marketing. We need to show up at states universities like Michigan and Virginia, and H.B.C.U. Schools like Howard and Hampton.

But here is a thought. Why wait for college? Why not design some curriculum for elementary schools that teaches toy invention and design. How about lesson plans and text books with math problems that feature toys?

Future success for the entire toy industry will come from an industry that reflects the world as it is and not as it was. I would love to hear your thoughts.

3 thoughts

  1. A small step, but I love visiting nearby schools and sharing about what I do and the types of jobs that are available in our community and the toy industry as a whole.

  2. So true!! It’s also worth considering in the influencers you work with. A large agency approached us about producing some content with big influencers – but almost all of the influencers they offered were white and affluent. This did not fit our mission as a company that makes eco-educational games for ALL children. Luckily, our public relations firm (KidStuff PR) has built relationships with a number of families of color. These influencers may not have as wide of a reach yet, but they have very loyal followers. So instead of working with a few big influencers, we put in more effort to work with a larger number of micro-influencers. It worked out beautifully – we got some wonderful posts about our games, and were able to reach more diverse audiences than if we’d taken the standard route.

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