U.S.-Born Latinos Assimilating, Not Yet Assimilated

Discussion
Nov 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

New research from New American Dimensions concludes: “Today’s young Hispanics may be assimilating, but they certainly have not yet assimilated. Their ethnic identities are
strong, and they are looking for ways to express their unique needs, both culturally and linguistically.”

According to the study’s report, Made in America: Communicating with Young Latinos, a natural product of the assimilation process is evident in the overwhelming majority
of second-generation U.S. Latinos who say they prefer English-language television and commercials to those in their ancestral language.

The research, which involved surveying 1,135 U.S.-born Latinos in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago and Houston, also found this group was more likely to buy a product featured
in an English-language commercial if it included Latinos in the spot.

Seventy-seven percent said that commercials needn’t be in Spanish to address their needs but 75 percent said they would like to see more Hispanics in commercials and television.
More than two-thirds say they appreciate marketing that speaks to them as a “bicultural Hispanic person.”

New American Dimensions’ research broke respondents into three age groups (14 – 18, 19 – 24, 25+) to determine their television viewing habits.

The three groups watched approximately the same amount of television on a weekly basis with the 19 – 24 group watching the most (22.1 hours) and 14 – 18 year olds the least (20.9).

The youngest set watched the least amount of Spanish-language television (five hours per week) while the 19 – 24 and 25+ group watched about the same (6.2 and 6.1 hours respectively).

As with previous groups of immigrants, the study found the use of English grew in predominance with each succeeding generation. For example, 73 percent of second-generation Latinos
say they speak Spanish well or very well. Of third-generation Latinos, only 15 percent are as fluent in Spanish.

Moderator’s Comment: The research cited in this story concludes there are clear opportunities to make a connection with U.S. born Hispanics in their
preferred language(s). Where do you see the most promising opportunities?

George Anderson – Moderator

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11 Comments on "U.S.-Born Latinos Assimilating, Not Yet Assimilated"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

The research shows that 72% of second-generation Hispanics prefer English, while only 6% prefer Spanish. Among third-generation Hispanics, this changes to 93% and 1%. Since these two groups comprise the significantly-growing majority of Hispanics in the U.S., it appears that that the preferred language of U.S. born Hispanics is English.

Additionally, a red herring in the report is the finding that “75 percent said they would like to see more Hispanics in commercials and television.” Really? What else could they say, “no?” How do Hispanics know how many Hispanics are on TV? Bottom-line, they don’t, and that’s one of the great things about assimilation.

Thus, the question becomes, “Where are the most promising opportunities to make a connection with U.S. born Hispanics?,” with Spanish language and Hispanic actors and presenters not germane to the equation.

I believe the most promising opportunity to market to U.S. born Hispanics is to approach them as intelligent, important, beneficial members of society – just like we’d approach anyone else.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 4 months ago
Last night in my mail, I received a brochure for the sixth annual Winter Yiddish Intensive at LA’s Skirball Center. This is a week’s worth of events, classes, lectures, etc. all devoted to what is known as a “dying” language. There is a renewed interest in this language among young people who never learned it, but for whom it symbolizes culture and connection. There are only about 9 million Jews in the US. There are 40 plus million Latinos. And of those 40 plus million, the adult majority are foreign born (remember, I said adult majority) and they came at a time in this country when language retention was being supported by a different civil rights climate than earlier immigrants. Plus, there is the whole issue of the American Continent making language retention easier than for other immigrants. Factors like these and many more make it fairly easy to understand the continued use of Spanish or connection to Spanish even when language use is limited. The reality of the youth market is that it is… Read more »
Terry Soto
Guest
Terry Soto
15 years 4 months ago
The multicultural youth market lives in two different worlds – one foot is firmly planted in their Latin, Asian or Afro American heritage and the other strives for acceptance in urban youth culture and society as a whole. I like to say that these are “hybrid” consumers and that it is necessary to acknowledge them as a multi-dimensional generation – one that shares mainstream values relevant to their age group, but who also feel strongly connected to and is proud of their heritage – how they self-identify and what they associate with is situationally driven based on their need for acceptance and how they want to be perceived and treated. Among this generation, behavior, attitudes and values adapt as necessary. On the one hand, it is true that they speak English, share much of Mainstream’s youth attitudes and beliefs and want to be treated like anyone else – on the other; there are strong indications that they want recognition, acceptance and appreciation not only as a generation, but as Hispanics. When selling to them in… Read more »
David Morse
Guest
David Morse
15 years 4 months ago
The most frequent comment I have been getting on our study is “of course.” Of course Hispanics are assimilating, of course those born in the United States prefer English. Yet amazingly, there are many, many people in the Hispanic marketing establishment that insist Hispanics are not assimilating; that in their heart of hearts they prefer Spanish; that they connect to Spanish on a more emotional level. The author of one study I wrote about a few months ago in RW insists that Hispanics (all implied) prefer to make love in Spanish. I personally think this point of view is bunk. So much ado has been made about Hispanics “acculturating” (holding on to their own culture, while still adopting U.S. culture), compared to the melting pot assimilation of the early twentieth century when shameful immigrants supposedly discarded their ethnic identities as quickly as they could learn to whistle Yankee Doodle Dandy. Of course immigrants today do not look like the immigrants of 1905. But that doesn’t mean they are not on the path to becoming full-fledged… Read more »
George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 4 months ago

Based on this study’s results, I’d be hiring Latino actors to sell my product in Spanglish on The Simpsons.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

As might have been predicted, our poll results to this point show that half believe the most popular English language show with Latinos is George Lopez. In fact, as the previous entry points out, it is The Simpsons.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
15 years 4 months ago

Michael has a good point with “what else do you say?” when asked if you’d like to see more Hispanic actors. Not the best question in the world.

We did ask one I think is better and more revealing — “Who do you identify with more: Hispanic actors speaking Spanish, Hispanic actors speaking English or non-Hispanic actors?”

The result: 65% said Hispanic actors speaking English, 22% said Hispanic actors speaking Spanish and only 13% said non-Hispanic actors.

I think it reinforces the fact that they are looking for cultural relevance, something or someone that recognizes their uniqueness as Hispanics, but in their language — English (or Spanglish).

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

There are 2 kinds of marketing campaigns: measured and unmeasured. Smart marketers can test and measure their costs versus the results. Other marketers know their budget but can’t measure the results versus any scientific test of alternatives. Marketing to Hispanic people can be tested and the results measured against other test alternatives. A previous RetailWire story detailed Marlboro’s marketing success. Some of that success was based on testing the effectiveness of many alternatives, instead of sticking to the “same old same old” way of advertising. How many retailers and consumer product manufacturers test alternatives constantly? I believe it is a small minority. (Sounds like a weak joke: how many firms test minority advertising? A minority.)

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

Good comments from David Morse. But, I still wonder how Hispanics can identify other Hispanics in the media. It can’t be by name or accent. Are there visual clues that the rest of us are missing? I really don’t think Hispanics can tell who’s Hispanic on TV with any degree of accuracy.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
15 years 4 months ago

Michael is absolutely right. Targeting Hispanics in Spanish is easy. Doing it in English is a whole other story. My company co-sponsored with Tu Ciudad magazine an entire conference last week devoted to that very theme.

As Michael points out, casting is tough. At last week’s conference, Carl Kravitz, CEO of Cruz/Kravitz: Ideas quipped that as he watched a television commercial from Mexico he wondered what Scandinavian country he was in. I’ve seen the converse happen as well — focus group respondents commenting on liking the “Hispanic” actors when, in reality, they were non-Hispanics with dark hair.

So if you can’t do it with language and you can’t do it with casting, you need to find some other way to let people know that you’re talking to them. I think the answer is “culture.” But it’s easier said than done.

Marcos Hernandez
Guest
Marcos Hernandez
15 years 4 months ago

It is all about connecting with the consumer.

Find an insight that falls within the brand’s platform.
Build communication that bonds the two.

English or Spanish – it all depends on the product and target.

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