By Gene Demby
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 National Public Radio (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.
Here are some intriguing findings from the poll overall:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
[Next from the NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health poll: Findings on Cuban Americans who were polled.]