Does the ‘American Dream’ change you? A study of the Values of Hispanic Americans

April 11, 2013 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

Cultural values are shared beliefs among members of a cultural group that govern the actions and decisions of group members. Even though U.S. Hispanics hail from 20 different countries, many share similar cultural beliefs. ThinkNow Research wanted to measure how U.S. Hispanics rank commonly held Cultural Values and compare the rankings across various Hispanic segments to see how they differ from each other, so we conducted a national survey to find out. Here are some facts about Hispanics you need to know.

For this Hispanic consumer insights study, we focused on 10 different core values, including Family Unity, Morality & Decency, Equality of the Sexes, Community with other Hispanics and others.

Note: the average ranking numbers listed below range from 1 – Most important, 5 – Least important.

Family and Friends

What we found was that, across the board, the U.S. Hispanics care deeply about family and friends. In fact, two Value categories related to that – Family Unity, Surrounded by Friends & Family – ranked #1 and #3 respectively in this study.

Within the categories, though, there were some very interesting dichotomies. For example:

  • While both men and women ranked Family Unity as their #1 Value, women seem to care more about it than men, 1.76 vs. 2.32, respectively
  • Acculturation has a significant impact on Values:
    • The least acculturated Hispanics value Family Unity much more than those of medium acculturation or high acculturation levels (1.58 vs. 2.09 vs. 2.22)
    • For Surrounded by Family & Friends… the numbers are completely reversed (high acculturation – 2.35, medium – 2.51, low – 2.84)
    • What’s the conclusion here? Perhaps, as U.S. Hispanics become more acculturated, while family is still important, building a network of friends outside the home (at work, at school, etc.) becomes an even more important aspect of becoming a more "mainstream American."
  • A related Value here is the category of Community with other Hispanics.
  • The more dominant Spanish is as the language most spoken, the more the respondents felt being with other Hispanics was important.
  • Not surprisingly, those with the highest acculturation rankings didn’t find it very important at all.

Control of my life

Perhaps the most interesting of the findings had to do with Hispanics wanting/needing to have control of their lives. The two specific Value categories were Having Control over my Time and Control over my Destiny.

Having control of my time

  • Men valued it much more than women (3.38 vs. 3.67)
  • It meant more to the highly acculturated vs. the less acculturated (3.20 vs. 3.74)
  • It also increases in Value the longer they lived in the U.S. (3.56 – 11+ years; 3.97 – 1 to 5 years.

Control over my destiny

  • Again, much more important to men than woman (3.26 vs. 3.87)
  • Also, more important to the highly acculturated vs. the less acculturated (3.49 vs. 3.94)
  • Finally, it increases in Value the more money they make (3.40 – GT $30k HHI; 3.82 – LT$30k HHI)

The more we thought about this category, the more it appeared to us that as Hispanics (and particularly the men) start to live [or surrender to] the American Dream – working hard, making more money, providing for their families, climbing the ladder of success, etc.), the more their lives (their time and their destiny) become less their own… and because of that, become more important to them (not unlike the rest of Americans who work to climb the ladder of success). Or am I just jaded?


In one of the more intriguing Value categories, we also looked at Generosity, and what we found was a bit surprising:

  • The higher the acculturation, the less important Generosity is.
  • The same for years in the U.S. – long-term residents thought Generosity was less important
  • Finally, those Hispanics with the higher HHI valued Generosity lower than the less-well-off.

Is this another of those jaded ideals… “the more mainstream American I become and the more money I make, the less I care about helping others”? Or perhaps, the less affluent are simply more interdependent economically and helping each other (generosity) becomes more important. Hmmm…

One very interesting aspect of the study was that the results were compared to the same study conducted 10 years earlier – in 2003. In addition to seeing where Hispanic values are now, that comparison provided a glimpse of changes that have occurred since then.

By far, #1 in 2003 and still #1 in 2013 was Family unity.

The other categories also pretty much stayed where they were 10 years ago, though a couple shifted one or two spots. For example:

  • Morality & Decency moved from #4 in 2003 to #2 today.
  • Equality of the Sexes dropped from #5 10 years ago to #7 in 2013… maybe because the equality of the sexes is more of a reality today than it was in 2003.

Click Here to download a free copy of the complete results of this Hispanic consumer Values study.

* This Hispanic market research project was part of the monthly Hispanic Omnibus study conducted by ThinkNow Research; these Value questions were asked in March 2013. The 500+ respondents were a representative cross-section of the US Hispanic population as a whole.