RESULTS

SUMMARY RESULTS FROM
THE LATINO ETHNIC ATTITUDE SURVEY

Conducted by Daniel L. Roy
Department of Geography, University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
danroy1@home.com

Below are summary findings of the Latino Ethnic Attitude Survey (LEAS) requested by many survey respondents. The 182 page report, titled Strangers in a Native Land: A Labyrinthine Map of Latino Identity, dealt specifically with middle-class Latinos of all national origins in the United States. While this report is unpublished, it will be available through the library system of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045.

Using the Latino Ethnic Attitude Survey, attention was focused on five related sets of issues. The first set deals with how middle-class Latinos identify themselves, including any contextual differences (self-identity). The second set includes whether their identity or ethnicity is an issue at work, in their community, or in the larger society (a sense of place). The third set considers their language preference. The fourth set looks at how generational differences affect middle-class identity; and finally, the fifth set includes normal geodemographic information related to gender, education, income levels, and zip code. My research is designed to ferret out this information, if possible, by asking respondents to comment on their identity or any other subject that would provide us with a better understanding of current Latino issues. This study does not deal directly with issues of assimilation, politics, immigration, or migration; they are beyond the scope of this report.

The question of identity, both in the majority society and in their community, is much on the minds of the Latino community. Exploring their way between two cultures, many Latinos are forging an independent identity, an amalgam of the conventional majority and the distinct minority. For many, the traditional English and Spanish languages are insufficient, and we see the birth of a "Spanglish" dialect (Gold 1997; Alvarez 1997) that better expresses their new identity creation. Newborn in nature, thi s new Latino identity is often standing on unsteady legs, unsure of its place in either culture.

I have chosen to use the male noun in single and plural cases (Latino, Chicano, Mexicanos) as the common descriptors, and individually identify male- and female-specific respondents by gender. Additionally, I use the Latino term "Anglo" to identify the white majority as the preferred identifier of many Latinos.

I have chosen the "American" descriptor to mean the United States. I realize the disagreeable nature of this restrictive definitionó that America encompasses the whole of North and South Americaó to the Latino community. However, the use of "American" (or its derivatives) permits a less cumbersome sentence structure. There are no other implications meant by its use.

Nationally, I define the Latino middle-class as having a household income of between $25,000 and $34,999, one of the household income choices provided in the survey (following the census example). The high end of this survey choice is more than the $34,076 median household income of all US households estimated for 1995 (Weinberg, 1996).

Questions related only directly or through implication to Latino identity will be used. Other survey questions having a sociopolitical nature have not been incorporated into this study because of certain time constraints. Results of these sociopolitical questions will be analyzed in a separate study. Additionally, the first 1,042 respondents have been used for this particular research; the survey will continue for other purposes (currently standing at over 2,200 respondents from about 48 states).

There are three basic questions that are asked about any subset of a population. How many people are in the subset? What is their demographic composition? Where are they concentrated? Examining the first question, the Census Bureau reported Latinos growing by 61 percent between 1970 and 1980, and another 53 percent between 1980 and 1990. The Latino census count for 1990 was about 22.4 million, up from 14.6 million in 1980 and 9.1 million in 1970. The Census Bureauís 1997 middle series projections estimates a Latino population of almost 29 million and projects a rise to over 31 million by the year 2000 (Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P23-183, 1993; Current Population Reports, Series P25-1130, 1997). The growth in the Latino population was about 35 percent of the entire nationís population increase between 1980 and 1990, is estimated to contribute 33 percent of the nationís growth between 1992 and 2000, and 37 percent between 2000 and 2010 (Bureau of the Census, CB91-100, Current Population Report, Series P-25-1092).

Who are the Latinos? The present study includes Latinos from Mexico (and Hispanos whose ancestral lands were annexed by the US), Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and all Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America. While the Census Bureau, using its definition, rightly counts people from Spain as "Hispanic," most current researchers do not include people from Spain when using the panethnic term Latino. Latino is reserved for people from the Western Hemisphere or "New World," and excludes Spain.

The oldest and by far the largest segment of the Latino population is, of course, the Mexican Americans, accounting for almost two-thirds of all Latinos (Table 1 and Figure 3). Some of these are not immigrants but "Hispanos," by and large mestizo and "different from Mexican Americans only because of a greater nomad Indian admixture" (Nostrand 24). Nostrand argues that, politically, Hispanos are Americans "and have been since the mid-nineteenth century, a claim only the descendants of the old-stock populations can make" (24). Nostrand further argues that, culturally, Mexican Americans are unlike Hispanos who preserved the native and Spanish attributes. These differences contain the same subtleties as our American regional differences. Moreover, Hispano ethnic identity is more Spanish than native.

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Reports P23-183, 1993

Note: There was another 1.4 million who reported general terms such as "Hispanic," "Hispano," "Latino," or "Spanish."

The remaining third of Latinos come from 14 other sources. The second largest Latino group is Puerto Ricans, citizens of the United States since 1917 (if they came to the mainland), and not immigrants, followed by Cubans. The 1990 census counts the Salvadorans (Figure 3) as the largest Central American group, followed by the Dominicans of the Caribbean, then the Guatemalans and Nicaraguans. Of the approximately one million South American Latinos, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Peruvians were the largest groups.

Overview of the Latino Survey Respondents

The Latino Ethnic Attitude Survey study consists of 1,042 LEAS respondents from 41 of the 48 contiguous states. In 1995, 74 percent of the nationís Latinos resided in five states. California, with nine million, has the largest share of the nationís Latino population, followed by Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois (Campbell 1966). LEAS respondents generally mirrored the national Latino geographic distribution (Figure 6).

 

 Figure 6. Geographic Locations of Survey Respondents

Table 1. Age Distribution of Latino Respondents

Age Group

Males

Females

Survey Total

**National Total

Count

Percent

Count

Percent

Count

Percent

Percent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17/Under

23

4

25

6

48

5

N/A

18-24

256

42

229

53

487

47

***13.9

25-34

175

30

107

25

282

27

21.3

35-44

79

13

44

10

124

12

9.2

45-54

56

9

26

6

82

8

16

55-64

10

2

3

1

13

1

8

65-74

2

*n/s

--

--

2

n/s

7

75/Over

2

n/s

--

--

2

n/s

4.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 *Not statistically significant. N/A: not available in this age grouping.
**1995 State Population Projections, Bureau of the Census, Report PPL-47, Series A, October 1996.
***Percentage not comparable because of differences in age groupings at the national level. All other groupings are comparable.

Table 2. Comparisons of Median Household Incomes (National and LEAS)

Median Household Income

 

 

 

Survey Respondents (1996-97)

*U. S. Latinos (1995)

*All U. S. Households (1995)

 

 

 

$25,000 - $34,999

$22,860

$34,076

 

 

 

*Daniel H. Weinberg, Chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census. Press Briefing on 1995 Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Estimates, September 26, 1996.

Table 3. Comparison of Latino Household Income Levels (percent)

 

 

 

Household Income

**National

Survey

 

 

 

< $15,000

30.4

21.0

$15,001 to $24,999

22.2

14.0

$25,000 to $34,999

16.6

16.0

$35,000 to $44,999

10.5

11.0

$45,000 to $54,999

6.3

8.0

$55,000 to $74,999

8.6

11.0

$75,000 and Over

5.4

12.0

*Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, March 1994.
**This report records family income in 1993, while the survey household income records predominately 1996 incomes.

Table 9. Median Household Income of Latino Respondents by Gender and Education

*Comparison of Median Household Incomes and Education

Education

Males

Females

 

 

 

Less than 9th grade

<$15,000

<$15,000

9th to 12th grade (no diploma)

$15,00l - $24,999

$35,000 - $44,999

High School (diploma)

$15,001 - $24,999

$25,000 - $34,999

Some College

$15,001 - $24,999

$15,00l - $24,999

Associate

$25,000 - $34,999

$15,001 - $24,999

Bachelorís

$35,000 - $44,999

$25,000 - $34,999

Graduate/professional

$55,000 - $74,999

$35,000 - $44,999

 

 

 

*Boldface figures indicate income levels greater than the opposite gender for similar education.

Table 12. Respondent Educational Levels in Selected States

State

Education Level (percent of state respondents)

< 9

Some HS

HS

Some Col

Associate

Bachelor

Grad/Prof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California (394)

*n/s

4

2

42

9

25

22

Texas (138)

n/s

4

3

38

5

33

17

Illinois (66)

n/s

12

5

39

17

15

14

New York (35)

n/s

--

--

37

6

26

26

Florida (27)

n/s

--

--

22

19

19

30

Colorado (25)

n/s

--

4

52

24

12

12

Pennsylvania (24)

n/s

--

--

63

--

17

25

New Jersey (8)

n/s

--

--

38

--

38

25

Arizona (39)

n/s

10

7

28

5

23

23

New Mexico (25)

n/s

8

--

44

--

36

8

Massachusetts (18)

n/s

--

11

39

--

28

33

Virginia (19)**

n/s

16

5

16

--

26

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Not statistically significant.
**Includes Washington, D.C.

Table 13. Number of Generations in U.S., by Gender (by count and percent)

Gender

One

Two

Three

Four

Five/more

Nr

Pct

Nr

Pct

Nr

Pct

Nr

Pct

Nr

Pct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male

237

39

154

25

93

15

43

7

63

10

Female

168

39

100

23

72

17

43

10

52

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

405

39

254

24

165

16

86

8

115

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding.
1025 respondents answered.

Blue-Low Quartile(<$15M to $25M)
Green-Middle Quartile($25M to $55M)
Red-High Quartile($55M and over)

Summary of Demographic Profile

At 1,042 responses, the Internet response rates to the Latino Ethnic Attitude Survey were high, significant, and geographically broad. The borderlands, containing 60 percent of the nationís Latinos, made up 57 percent of survey respondents. While respondents from California and Texas mirrored the high Latino state populations, Illinois had the highest response ratio to state Latino populations. The ratio of male-to-female respondents was 3:2, and higher than the national gender ratios for Latinos, most likely reflecting higher male use of the Internet medium.

LEAS respondents were young, with 79 percent in the 34 or younger age group, and substantially higher than national Latino figures for the same age groups. Household incomes for respondents generally mirrored those of US households, however they were higher than the national Latino household income figures. Females earned more than males in the lower educational levels, and income parity between the sexes were reached at the "some college" level. From that category on up, males earned significantly more at the higher degree levels than females, a finding generally reflective of national income trends between males and females.

The educational attainment of survey respondents was high, and considerably higher than for U.S. Latinos as a whole. Massachusetts recorded the highest percentage of graduate/professionals, while New Mexico had the highest percentage of bachelor degrees.

In sum, LEAS respondents were a young, educated, middle-income group that more closely resembles the geodemographic structure of the general U.S. population than it does the U.S. Latino population.

Table 15. Importance of Ethnicity in Defining Identity

Degree of Importance

Number

Percent

 

 

 

Very Important

755

72

Somewhat Important

222

21

Not Important

58

6

 

 

 

1039 respondents answered.

Table 16. Ethnicity in Defining Identity, by Gender

Degree of Importance

Male

Percent

Female

Percent

 

 

 

 

 

Very important

442

73

313

72

Somewhat important

121

20

99

23

Not important

36

6

23

5

Decline to state

4

1

0

0



1040 respondents answered.
Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding.


Figure 24. Latino Majority Descriptor Preference by Selected States

Dark Green-(Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California)-Chicano
Brown-(Texas)-Mexican American
Burnt Orange-(Florida, New York)-American
Tan-(Illinois)-Mexican
Olive-(Pennslyvania)-Puerto Riqueno

Latino self-identity labels change depending on the sociopolitical context. Latinos may use "Mexicano," "Chicano," or "Pocho" among their social group but change the way they self-identify in their work or other environment to "Mexican American," "Latino," or "Latin American." From the data presented, there is no single, preferred label, whether it is national origin or an umbrella term. It does be come clear, however, that the "Hispanic" label is uniformly disliked. Eighty-five percent of referents preferred a national origin label over an umbrella term. Of the umbrella terms, "Latino" ranked higher than any other.

Latinos are not monolithic in their agreement of label preferences. Both sexes equally preferred "Chicano," while more females than males preferred "Mexican American." Males preferred "Mexicano" more than females, and females preferred "Mexican" more than males. Females preferred "Latino" over males by a ratio of 2:1. Males like the label "American of Mexican descent" more than females, and more females preferred "American" than males.

There are Latino self-identity differences among age, education and geographic regions as well. The younger and older males did not like the label "American," while the older males preferred "American of Mexican descent" and the youngest males preferred "Chicano," as did nearly one-third of all males. In rank order, Latino males preferred "Chicano," "Mexican American," "American of Mexican descent," "Mexican," and "Puert o Riqueñ o."

Males like the label "American of Mexican descent" more than females, and more females preferred "American" than males.

There are Latino self-identity differences among age, education and geographic regions as well. The younger and older males did not like the label "American," while the older males preferred "American of Mexican descent" and the youngest males preferred "Chicano," as did nearly one-third of all males. In rank order, Latino males preferred "Chicano," "Mexican American," "American of Mexican descent," "Mexican," and "Puerto Riqueñ o."

The most popular label preference for Latino females in most age groups was "Chicano." Females in the older age groups, however, preferred "American of Mexican descent" or "Puerto Rique ño." The rank order of identifier terms for Latino females was "Chicano," "Mexican American," "Mexican," "American of Mexican descent" and "Latino."

There is no single self-identifier that Latinos prefer, and whatever identifier is chosen can change depending on the sociopolitical or socioeconomic environment they are in. The selection of ethnic labels may vary in various situations and over time, and an individual may use different ethnic labels rather than universally using one label.

When the generation and gender correlates are viewed in terms of label preferences, about one-third of both males and females in generations one through three preferred "Chicano," with these percentages increasing 20 percent for both sexes in generations four and five. Because the term "Chicano" is associated politically with a rising level of ethnic social consciousness and fair treatment, the assumption can be made that the increased preference for "Chicano" among the older generations of both sexes indicate the possibility for higher levels of political action and/or activists than among generations one through three. One can also argue that the older generations refuse to blandly hide their culture under that of the majority. This would indicate that while Latinos are willing to assimilate into the majority culture economically, they are not necessarily willing to subsume it politically or culturally.

When education is thrown into the self-identifier mixture, "Chicano" is again the majority preference for the highly educated Latinos of both sexes (some college and above), especially in the fourth and fifth generations.

There are various self-identification preferences based on geographic regions. Not surprisingly, California Latinos prefer "Chicano," as do Latinos from Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Latinos from Texas, on the other hand, equally prefer "Mexican American" and "Mexicano," while those from Illinois prefer both "Mexican" in the earlier generations and "Mexican American" in the more assimilated later generations. New York Latinos prefer "American," "Chicano," "Central American," or "Puerto Rique ño," while Florida Latinos indicate a preference for "Latin American" followed by the combination of "American" and "American of Mexican descent." Pennsylvania Latinos prefer "Puerto Riqueñ o" and "Chicano," while those from Massachusetts equally prefer "Puerto Rique ñ o" and "Latino."

To offer a broad interpretation of these findings, these state and regional label preferences suggest that borderland Latinos could become more politically active if not already so. Latinos in Texas are probably highly assimilated, while those from Illinois have a mixed group, some assimilated and some not yet assimilated. Preferences shown by New York Latinos illustrate the great Latino cultural mosaic there, while "Chicanos" are becoming an increasing presence in Florida, a state normally viewed as heavily Caribbean. Finally, Pennsylvania Latinos prefer "Chicano" (as well as "Puerto Rique ñ o"), indicating either significant Mexican immigrant settlement patterns are occurring in Pennsylvania or Chicano was recorded by out-of-state Latino students, or both.

Summary Findings of Middle-Class Latino Identity

While ethnic identity is important to Latinos in defining who they are, as a group they are following historic immigrant patterns. LEAS found there was a decline in the importance of identity to ethnicity the longer Latinos lived in the United States. In general, the more educated Latinos became, the less important ethnicity became to their identity. This is probably best reflected when Latinos are queried about their preference for an identity descriptor. Research found Latinos somewhat ambivalent about the use of a consistent and specific identifier, especially among the Mexican Americans. This group, in particular, uses several or many different descriptors that depends on a multilevel contextual use which rely on the specific social or work setting they are in and under what circumstances and purposes the setting occurs. Because outside influences suggest the descriptor used, an implication can be made that descriptors serve different purposes in different settings, i.e., the descriptor becomes political or much more specific within their ethnic community and more general in the broader society. When these same Latinos find themselves in the broader society of work or community, or when they are around elder or other Latinos for which a particular descriptor may have negative connotations, or for simplicity of understanding, they may chose a more general national origin or panethnic descriptor. In general then, one can argue that, while the concept of Latino identity and culture holds personal importance to many, the actual descriptor used does not. Females displayed more ambiguity about the degree of importance they placed on the issue of ethnicity and identity than did males.

An examination of the relationship of demographic variables to ethnic identity found that as income levels rose, the importance Latinos placed on ethnic identity decreased, both for males and females. LEAS found that, while three-quarters of first generation Latino respondents felt their identity was "very important," this level decreased the more generations Latino families had lived in the United States until, by the fifth generation, 35 percent less Latinos believed their ethnic identity was "very important" than did the first generation. On one hand, Latino respondents appear to have achieved some level of ethnic comfort in this society that is intensified by higher educational and income levels. On the other hand, Latinos overwhelmingly believe others identify them by their ethnicity, with males consistent in this belief at all age levels, while younger females not quite so definite. At higher age levels, both genders reach parity in their feelings of ethnic identification by others. For both males and females, the fifth and older generations do not feel as strongly about this question as do the earlier generations.

Latino identifying labels are not static instruments used consistently but, in fact, are under constant change depending on various cultural and social factors. For many respondents, panethnic terms were used for simplicity or when the use of more descriptive labels may not be correctly understood, either within or outside the Latino community. There are distinct regional differences in the selection of Latino descriptors. For example, Latinos from the borderlands prefer "Chicano" as an identifier, which no doubt reflects past political and discriminatory policies by the majority culture. Illinois Latinos prefer "Mexican" in the earlier generations and "Mexican American" in later generations. New York Latinos prefer "American," "Chicano," "Central American," or "Puerto Riqueño," while Floridian Latinos prefer "Latin American." Indeed, Latinos are not at all monolithic in any of the areas LEAS examined, but are, as Shorris insisted, "different and alike," relating to each other in the same way as other human beings.

As I have emphasized throughout this study, Latinos are not a homogeneous group. The one important area they all share, however, is their common Spanish language, which is the concern of the next chapter.

Table 31 . Language Preference (percent)

Preference

Male

Female

Total

       

English

36

39

38

Spanish

9

6

8

Both Equally

55

53

54

       

997 respondents answered.

Summary of Middle-Class Language Preference

Latinos are a heterogeneous group with their Spanish language as the dominant linkage. Many studies mentioned earlier have portrayed a socioeconomic relationship to income and adequacy in the dominant cultures language. Middle-class LEAS respondents prove these findings accurate. Almost 40 percent of Latino respondents prefer English as their dominant language, and 92 percent prefer either monolingual English or bilingual English and Spanish. LEAS preference for monolingual Spanish averaged nine percent. Over time, and as Latino socioeconomic status improves, Latino language preferences, while bilingual, move closer to an English predominance for LEAS respondents. For many Latinos bilingualism is the only cultural entry to both the Latino and American communities, and where monolingualism does not meet the social or work requirements of many who must move between both cultures.

Education has little influence over language preference, but age demonstrated a positive correlation, especially in the 25 to 54 age groups. Most who identified with descriptors with "American" in the names preferred English to Spanish. A Cuban majority favored Spanish, while the umbrella descriptors of Puerto Ricans, Latin Americans, and Central Americans endorsed both languages equally. Those respondents identifying as Mexican or Mexicano had an equal propensity for both languages, with the remainder generally expressing a partiality for Spanish.

The above information has been presented in summary form. The entire report runs 182 pages with many more tables and a diskette containing all of the geodemographic information from which this report was compiled. The entire report is available from the library system of the University of Kansas, probably in early 1998.

I would like to thank all of the respondents from throughout the United States who made time to complete the survey as well as supplying us with their very important comments. These comments were used liberally throughout the report. Many thanks.

 

Copyright © 1997 by Daniel L. Roy

Webmaster: Chris Chipman