Hispanic attitudes and behaviors by socioeconomic level

When talking about U.S. Hispanics, marketers seldom explore socioeconomic level as it relates to their attitudes and behaviors. For me this is a most interesting relationship because if, for example, Latinos hold cultural attitudes in the same esteem regardless of their social standing, then one may conclude that one marketing approach may reach diverse types of Hispanics.

What should the marketer tell Hispanic consumers when selling a new Toyota Camry? Or what should the marketer tell Latinos when selling diapers? Should the communication and positioning approaches used be equally crafted to reach the Hispanic that can afford a new relatively expensive car, or a more common product like diapers?

Using data from the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study that was collected between April 25, 2011 and June 1, 2012, I created cross-tabulations of the TGI Socio Economic Levels in the Simmons database by those “agreeing a lot” with cultural attitudes and behaviors that will be specified below. The TGI Socio Economic Levels are a composite of education, ownership of selected household durables, mobile phone ownership, credit card ownership, usage of Internet and air travel. The scale results in four levels of socioeconomic standing: The top 10% of the population, the next 20% of the population, the next 30% of the population and finally the remaining 40%.

The bar charts below report the percentage of Latinos in each of the Socio Economic Levels that stated they “agree a lot” with each of the cultural statements.

Source: Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study

Source: Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study

Source: Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study

The way to read these results is, for example: Of those Latinos that are in the lowest 40% of the TGI Socio Economic Levels, 30% “agree a lot” with the statement “I often encourage Hispanic children to participate in traditional Hispanic games and activities,” and 25% of those in the next higher 30% level state they “agree a lot” with the statement. Twenty percent in the next higher level and only about 16% in the highest Socio Economic Level similarly “agree a lot.”  Meaning that strong agreement with the statement is heavily concentrated in the lower socioeconomic classes. There is a monotonic trend that indicates that as socioeconomic levels rises, attitudes and behaviors endorsing Latino cultural elements decrease. There are other attitudes and behaviors that do not conform with the above trend, for example:

Source: Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study

The cultural value of being gregarious and enjoying family and extended family appears to be consistent across the Socio Economic Levels, and to an even higher extent at the upper levels of the socioeconomic scale. In general, however, the percentages are very high and they speak more readily about how certain cultural values persist even as people become wealthier and more educated. It appears, then, that some values and behaviors decline as Hispanics climb the social ladder and others persist regardless. This highlights the complexity of the Hispanic market. Further, those higher on the socioeconomic scale are more likely to endorse values of U.S. society as reflected in the chart below regarding the priority of speaking English in the household.

Source: Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study

The findings are consistent and surprising, in my opinion. Those who are less affluent and less formally educated are the largest share of those indicating they engage in culturally related behaviors as well as holding attitudes and beliefs that are culturally-based. Nevertheless, there appear to be values that survive Latino prosperity, like the value for family get-togethers. It may be that those better-off have more family around to get together with and that those less well-off tend to be more geographically separated because of lack of economic resources.

These findings corroborate what our book “Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer” says about how lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be attached to their culture to a larger extent. It is also likely that having roots, of any kind, is more important to those who have not fared as well in society. Nevertheless, this data shows that there are exceptions and that more affluent Latinos are likely to endorse U.S. values to a larger extent. That may not be too surprising but certainly the trend points to the importance of socioeconomic considerations in marketing to Hispanics.

Another factor to point out is that recency of immigration to the U.S. should be correlated with socioeconomic level. That may also explain to some extent why lower levels endorse cultural attitudes and behaviors to a larger extent.

The consistencies are important and we will report some more of these in future postings. The trends have powerful implications for those who, for example, plan business-to-business campaigns, or plan approaches geared to the more affluent. In a business-to-business setting, if targeting relatively well-to-do Hispanic business owners, a culturally based approach may not be as relevant as when targeting Latino employees of that business.

Three trends were highlighted here:

  • Specific cultural attitudes and behaviors that differentiate Latinos of diverse levels tend to be more strongly endorsed by those in the lower 40%
  • Other more general cultural attitudes and behaviors seem to be relevant to all Hispanics
  • A tendency for better-off Hispanics to endorse U.S. values to a larger extent

Marketers should, in my opinion, pay close attention to these findings. Marketing in culture may render more robust results when campaigns are directed to the lower socioeconomic strata. It appears that cultural heritage loses some prevalence as Latinos become increasingly affluent. Thus, having a campaign in Spanish with Latino themes for better-off Hispanics may not be as productive as once thought.

The data used here is from the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study and was collected between April 25, 2011 and June 1, 2012. The sample contained 8,252 Latinos.

Learn more about the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study.


About the author:

Dr. Korzenny is a Professor of Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communication, and Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University. He independently consults with major U.S. corporations on their Hispanic marketing strategies, and speaks to them about approaches to better connect with Hispanic Consumers. For other articles in this series please visit: http://felipekorzenny.blogspot.com/

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