Code Switch
4:15 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Poll Focuses On Views From A Wide Array Of Latino Americans

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 11:14 am

You've probably heard a lot about "the Latino voter" or the way companies are trying to win over "the Latino consumer."

It's a cliché to point out that Latinos, like every other ethnic group, are not monolithic. But let's say it one more time, anyway: Latinos are not monolithic.

That's underscored by a new major poll of nearly 1,500 Latino Americans by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. The poll, like our previous poll of African-Americans, covered several aspects of people's lives — religious beliefs, personal finances, health status, education and more. It featured enough respondents that we could break them out into a few key groups by ethnic ancestry: Cubans, Dominicans, South Americans, Central Americans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. We were also able to contrast responses from folks who were immigrants with those who were born in the United States.

Of course, there are some themes in common: Respondents from every group were most likely to say that the economy and crime and violence were the biggest issues facing the places they lived. And more than 4 in 10 Latinos said in those places, all or most of those people were also Latino. (More people from each group expressed no preference on whether they preferred to be called "Latino" or "Hispanic" compared with one or the other preference.)

But what's most interesting is some of the characteristics unique to each group, and the variations and striations that exist within groups of respondents.

All this week, we'll be airing and publishing stories that delve into different aspects of different experiences the poll illuminated. To whet your appetite, here are some intriguing findings from the poll overall:

Dominicans

  • In the poll's findings, people of Dominican descent were the most likely to say they were temporarily unemployed.
  • Dominican respondents were more likely than the other groups polled to say they were dissatisfied with where they lived.
  • Less than 1 in 5 Dominicans were say they've achieved the American dream. But Dominicans, like a majority of all Latino groups, say they have or will achieve the American dream.

Cubans

  • Cuban-Americans were out ahead of most other Latino groups on a bunch of socioeconomic indicators. They were very likely to tell pollsters that they had a college degree or greater; they reported high rates of homeownership; and they are more likely than other Latinos to say they have achieved the American dream.
  • When asked about whether they had experienced four common types of discrimination in the past year, Cuban-Americans were more likely than the other groups to say they had not.
  • But there were some counterintuitive findings, here: While a little over a third of all of the poll's respondents said their finances were not good or poor, nearly half of all Cubans said so. They were the group most likely to answer this way, despite the higher reported levels of education.
  • And even though Cubans gave positive responses for many economic indicators, they also expressed more concern than most other Latino groups that they or someone in their family might lose their job in the next 12 months.
  • They were also less likely than other groups to say they were satisfied with their lives.

Puerto Ricans

  • The poll was conducted in Spanish and English, and there was close to a 50-50 split on the language folks used when answering. But Puerto Ricans were the only group in which a majority chose to take the poll primarily in English, and not by a little — nearly 8 in 10 puertorriqueños did so; no other group had even half the respondents answer that way. This number dovetails with another finding from the poll — Puerto Ricans were way more likely to lean toward English than Spanish at home.
  • Significantly more Dominicans, Mexicans and Cubans reported living in neighborhoods that were mostly Latino than did Puerto Ricans.
  • They were less likely than other Latinos to say they were concerned that they or someone in their household would be out of work in the next 12 months.

Central Americans

  • Central Americans were one of the groups most likely to say they spoke only Spanish at home.
  • Central Americans were the least educated group, per our respondents. Almost half had less than a high school education.
  • Central Americans were significantly more likely to report having children younger than 18 living at home.

South Americans

  • South Americans were among the groups most likely to be employed, and most likely to be employed full-time.
  • South Americans were among the groups least likely to say they had children younger than 18 at home.
  • South Americans were much more likely than Mexican-Americans — who make up the largest immigrant group in the country — to say they were themselves born in another country.

Mexicans

  • Mexican-Americans are by far the biggest Latino group in the country, and they were the largest Latino group in our survey.
  • Mexicans are among the groups most likely to say they are better off than their parents were when their parents were the same age the respondents are now.
  • Despite making up the largest immigrant group in the United States, Mexican-Americans were about three times as likely as folks of Central American, South American or Dominican descent to say they were born here.

Immigrants

  • Perhaps intuitively, more than two-thirds of people who immigrated to the United States said they spoke only Spanish or more Spanish than English at home.
  • Latino immigrants were significantly more likely than the native-born to feel that their children would have better educational opportunities than they themselves had (91 percent to 68 percent). These respondents were also much more likely to think their children would be in better financial shape when they reached the respondent's age.
  • Immigrant respondents were much more likely than native-born Latinos to have only a high school education or less.
  • Employed immigrants were twice as likely as employed native-born Latinos to say they were concerned about themselves or a household member losing their job in the next 12 months. They were also twice as likely to say they were not confident they had enough money or health insurance to pay for a major illness.

The Native-Born

  • Those born in the U.S. tend to be younger than those born in another country.
  • A majority of all Latinos — both immigrants to the U.S. and folks born here — said religion is very important in their lives. However, Latinos born in the U.S. were twice as likely to say religion was not too or not at all important in their lives.
  • Native-born Latinos are more likely than immigrant Latinos to say their finances are excellent or good.
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. We're embarking this week on stories about Latino Americans. They're a growing part of the U.S. population with evermore influence on politics, culture, and more and we will be using a new survey of Latinos in America to guide our storytelling. It was conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

And to give us just a taste of what we found - because this was a very ambitious poll and as I said, we're going to be using it throughout the week - is Gene Demby. He's the lead blogger for NPR's Code Switch team. Good morning.

GENE DEMBY, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Good morning. So first off, just who did you talk to in the poll? When I say ambitious, what am I saying?

DEMBY: So this is a really, really big poll sample size. There are about 1,500 people which is a sample size big enough to let us actually compare the answers from different populations. So there were Cuban-Americans, there were Mexican-Americans, Dominican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and there were Central Americans and South Americans in the poll sample.

MONTAGNE: All right. So just a couple of samples of what sorts of things you were asking them.

DEMBY: They were broad lifestyle questions about religious affiliation, about income, about quality of life, about the issues that were of most concern to them, about homeownership. We just wanted to get kind of a sense of what people felt about their lives.

MONTAGNE: Well, so give us the big takeaway of how people saw themselves.

DEMBY: You're probably going to hear a lot about the Latino voter and the Latino consumer, but one of the things this poll really underscored was just how many distinctions we tend to flatten when we use terms like that. These are groups who live in different parts of the country, who have different countries of origin, who have different religious affiliations and different ethnic heritages.

And so people had different preferences as to whether they identified by their country of origin or as Hispanic or Latino.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. So even what you call yourself might be different, depending on who you are within that community. So give us a couple of examples of the distinctions that these different Latino-Hispanic groups were making between themselves.

DEMBY: Right. So let's look at the Mexican-American population. They are by far the biggest group in our sample size, which is reflective of the reality of American life. They're the biggest Latino group in the country. They're nearly three times as likely as people of Central American or South American or Dominican heritage to say that they were born in the U.S.

Even though Mexican-Americans are the largest immigrant group in the country, when it came to something like the American Dream, right, nearly a third of our Mexican-American respondents said that they'd already achieved it. And a solid majority of Mexicans said they had not achieved it, but they would eventually. They were also more likely to say that their personal finances were in good or excellent shape.

More so than, for example, Cuban Americans who are, otherwise, ahead on a bunch of issues. They were more likely to own their own homes, they were more likely to have earned a college degree or more.

MONTAGNE: But they were worried about their finances a little bit.

DEMBY: Right. Nearly half of Cuban-Americans said that their finances were in poor shape. And six in 10 employed Cubans said they were concerned that either they or someone in their family will be out of work in the next 12 months.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. So those are the sorts of distinctions that will come out in the stories we're going to be hearing this week.

DEMBY: Right. There were also some distinctions between people who described themselves as immigrants and people who were native born. Immigrants were significantly more likely to say that they felt that their children would have better educational and economic opportunities than they had themselves.

MONTAGNE: Gene Demby is from Code Switch, our team that covers race, ethnicity, and culture. Gene, thanks very much.

DEMBY: Thanks for having me, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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