Arab Americans comprise 6 million to 8 million people in the U.S. and Muslim Americans’ purchasing power is estimated to be $170 billion annually, but businesses often fail to recognize their economic power, recent reports suggest. A J. Walter Thompson survey called “Marketing to Muslims” and a study of Arab Americans in southeast Michigan provide a fuller picture of the economic contributions of Arabs and Muslims. Although often associated with Arabs, Muslims represent dozens of ethnic groups, including whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Understanding the differences between ethnicity and religion is one barrier that often confounds advertisers interested in selling to Muslim populations. “We need to educate ourselves and gain a broader understanding of the Muslim population,” said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting for Thompson and one of the authors of the study. The study, which was conducted earlier this year, interviewed 350 Muslim Americans in 20 states. It found: Muslims make up at least 2 percent of the U.S. population and two-thirds are under the age of 40. About 21 percent of Muslim Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 are registered voters, compared with 15 percent of people in that group across the country. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. Muslims are converts to Islam. 71 percent of Muslims believe advertisers rarely show anyone of their faith or ethnicity in advertising. That compares with 34 percent of the general population that believes the same thing. Around 70 percent of American Muslims over 25 have a college education, compared to 26 percent of the general U.S. population. Nationally, the food, finance and apparel industries appear to be the most influential markets for consumers who follow Islam. According to the Thompson study, the global market for halal – food prepared in accordance with Islamic law – is worth an estimated $580 billion annually. A study released by Wayne State University in Detroit titled “Arab America Economic Contribution Study” examined that population in southeast Michigan, finding that Arab Americans account for 6 percent of the work force and between $5.4 billion and $7.7 billion in earnings there. “In the U.S., the Arab and Muslim communities are small but generally very affluent and highly entrepreneurial,” Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Arab American Chamber of Commerce, said last week. Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East – about 400,000 in metropolitan Detroit and 500,000 throughout the state.