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Latinos Share Distinctive Views And Attachment To Heritage, But Attitudes Differ By Language And Place Of Birth, Assimilation At Work Across Generations

Nearly One-Third of Hispanics Report That They or Someone Close to Them Has Experienced Discrimination, 8 in 10 Say Hispanics Discriminating Against Other Hispanics is a Problem

December 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON -- A comprehensive new survey of Latinos in the United States reveals an array of attitudes, values and experiences that is distinct from non-Hispanics. Latinos take different views than non- Hispanics on what it takes to be successful in a U.S. workplace, and Hispanics overall show a strong attachment to the Latin American nations where they or their ancestors were born. While Latinos generally take a positive view of life in the United States, many express concerns about the moral values Latino children are acquiring here.

Significant differences on a range of attitudes are apparent depending on whether Latinos were born in the United States or abroad and whether they are primarily Spanish or English speaking. Although large-scale ongoing immigration keeps Spanish a vibrant presence in the Latino population, English is rapidly gaining ground, even in immigrant households. Among native-born Latinos and those who are fully fluent inEnglish, views on a range of issues are often closer to those of non-Hispanics than to those who are foreign born or Spanish speakers, according to the survey released today by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The 2002 National Survey of Latinos, a nationally representative survey conducted between April and June 2002, examines how members of the Hispanic community identify themselves, their views of the United States, their experiences with discrimination both within the Latino community itself and from non-Hispanic groups, their language abilities and preferences, their economic and financial situations and their experiences within the health care system.

The survey report also includes analysis of the sometimes substantial and sometimes more subtle differences in the attitudes and experiences among Latinos from various places of origin including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Salvadorans, and Colombians.

"The melting pot is at work as the survey shows that the children of Latino immigrants are English-speakers and express views closer to the American mainstream than the immigrant generation," said Roberto Suro, Director of the Pew Hispanic Center. "Assimilation is not a simple, all- encompassing process, and even Latinos whose families have been in the United States for several generations express some attitudes distinct from whites and African-Americans."

"A Cuban in Miami, a Salvadoran immigrant in Washington DC, and a third generation Mexican in Los Angeles may all have roots in Spanish speaking countries," said Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., Vice President, Director, Public Opinion and Media Research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, "but their diversity in views and experiences in the United States suggests that people should be wary of generalizing too much about Latinos."


Latinos overwhelmingly say that discrimination is a problem that keeps Hispanics from succeeding in general (82%) and is a problem in the workplace (78%) and at schools (75%).

-- When asked about personal experiences, one in three (31%) Latinos report that they or someone close to them has suffered discrimination in the past five years because of their racial or ethnic background.

-- Many Hispanics report experiencing more subtle forms of unfair treatment because of their racial or ethnic background, including being treated with less respect than others (45%), receiving poorer service than others (41%), and being insulted or called names (30%).

-- When asked to explain why they believe they were treated unfairly, they are most likely to say it is due to the language they speak (35%), though many attribute it to their physical appearance (24%), or feel it is a combination of the language they speak and their physical appearance (20%).

-- Latinos also identify discrimination within the Latino community as a problem. Eight in ten (83%) report that Hispanics discriminating against other Latinos is a problem, including almost half (47%) who say it is a major problem.

-- Views about Latinos discriminating against other Latinos is one example of the sometimes substantial differences across places of origin. Colombians (61%) and Dominicans (57%) are more likely than Mexicans (48%), Cubans (42%), and Puerto Ricans (39%) to feel that this type of discrimination is a major problem. Salvadorans (54%) and all Central (53%) and South Americans (52%) are more evenly divided on this issue.


The survey shows that immigration has a strong influence on Latinos' social identity. However, social identity is more complex than simply a connection to an ancestral homeland.

-- More than half of Latinos (54%) say their country of origin is the first or only choice for identifying themselves, compared to one-fourth of Latinos (24%) who say that "Latino" or "Hispanic" is their first choice, and one-fifth (21%) who say "American" is their preference.

-- More than two-thirds (68%) of foreign-born Latinos primarily choose their country of origin.

-- Those born in the United States of immigrant parents are about equally likely to identify themselves by their parents' country of origin (38%) or as American (35%).

-- Over half (57%) of Latinos with U.S.-born parents are more likely to identify first as Americans.


The survey suggests that Latinos who are native-born or speak English tend to have social values and hold beliefs that are more characteristic of mainstream American views than are the views of recent Latino immigrants -- with the exception of such issues as importance of family and size of government, where they express a more distinct Latino perspective.

-- Three in ten Hispanics (29%) believe that you can be more successful in an American workplace if you are willing to work long hours at the expense of your personal life compared to nearly half of whites(46%).

However, less than a fifth of Latinos who predominantly speak Spanish (17%) voice that view, compared to 45% of those who predominantly speak English. Similar gaps exist between the foreign and the native born.

-- A larger majority of Hispanics (72%) than whites (59%) feel that sex between two adults of the same sex is unacceptable. Again, differences are considerably more pronounced between Spanish and English dominant Latinos -- 81% versus 60%, respectively -- and the foreign versus native born -- 77% versus 64%, respectively say unacceptable.

-- More Latinos (89%) than whites (67%) agree that relatives are more important than friends. However, on this issue, foreign born (92%) and native born (82%) are more likely to agree with each other than with their non-Hispanic counterparts.

Latinos report positive views on living in the United States compared to their countries of origin. They feel strongly that the United States offers more opportunities to get ahead for themselves and their children in terms of employment and education. They do, however, express concern about the state of moral values and strength of family ties in this country.

-- More than three-quarters of Hispanics think Latino children growing up in the United States will get a better education than they did (80%) and will have better jobs and make more money than they do (76%).

-- Fewer, but still about half (56%), have confidence that Latino children growing up in the United States will have the same moral values as they do.

An overwhelming majority (89%) of Hispanics believe that immigrants need to learn English in order to succeed.

-- This is one instance where Latinos from different places of origin agree. For example, an overwhelming majority of Mexicans (89%), Puerto Ricans (86%), Cubans (89%), Central Americans (94%), South Americans (89%), Salvadorans (94%), Dominicans (92%), and Colombians (88%) all agree that immigrants need to learn to speak English.

-- Almost three-quarters (72%) of foreign-born Hispanics predominantly speak Spanish and nearly a quarter are bilingual (24%). Six in ten (61%) native-born Latinos predominately speak English and a third (35%) are bilingual.

-- In the second generation -- the U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants

-- 47% are bilingual, 46% are English dominant, and 7% are Spanish dominant.

Other key findings from the 2002 National Survey of Latinos include:

-- Latinos (35%) are more likely to report being without health insurance than whites (14%) or African Americans (21%).

-- About three in ten (29%) Latinos report having problems communicating with their health care providers because of language barriers.

-- About three in ten Latinos have had problems paying their rent or mortgage in the past year (28%), report being laid off or having lost their job in the past year (30%), and two-thirds report not having been able to save money for the future (66%).


The Pew Hispanic Center/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation 2002 National Survey of Latinos was conducted by telephone between April 4 and June 11, 2002 among a nationally representative sample of 4,213 adults, 18 years and older, who were selected at random. Representatives of the Pew Hispanic Center and The Kaiser Family Foundation worked together to develop the survey questionnaire and analyze the results. International Communications Research of Media, PA conducted the fieldwork in either English or Spanish, based on the respondent's preference.

The sample design employed a highly stratified disproportionate RDD sample of the 48 contiguous states, including oversamples for Salvadorans, Dominicans, Colombians, and Cubans. The results are weighted to represent the actual distribution of adults throughout the United States. The Latino sample in particular was weighted to reflect the actual distribution among Latino adults of country of origin, age, sex, and region.

Of those who were interviewed, 2,929 identified themselves as being of Hispanic or Latin origin or descent (based on the question "Are you, yourself of Hispanic or Latin origin or descent, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, Caribbean or some other Latin background?") and throughout this report they will be referred to interchangeably as either "Latinos" or "Hispanics." In addition, interviews were conducted with 1008 non-Hispanic whites and 171 non-Hispanic African Americans. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.41 percentage points for Latinos overall, +/- 3.32 percentage points for whites, and +/- 9.9 percentage points for African Americans. The report also highlights results for various subgroups of Latinos. Please see the Introduction of the Report for definitions of these key groups.

The sample size and margin of sampling error for these groups are shown in the table below:

Unweighted Number of Respondents and Margin of Sampling Error for Latino Sub-groups

Unweighted Number

Margin of Sampling of Respondents (n) Error Total Latinos
Foreign/Native-Born +/-2.41 percentage points 2929
Foreign-Born Latinos 2.99 2014
Native-Born Latinos 4.06 915
* Note: Foreign born includes Hispanics born on the island of Puerto Rico.
1st Generation 2.99 2014
2nd Generation 5.58 526
3rd Generation and Higher 5.93 362
Primary Language    
English Dominant 4.82 687
Bilingual 4.40 933
Spanish Dominant 3.59 1309
Country or Place of Origin    
Mexico 3.31 1047
Puerto Rico 6.65 317
Cuba 6.38 343
Central America 8.08 (Total) 341
South America 7.95 (Total) 394
Dominican Republic 7.30 235
El Salvador 10.11 204
Colombia 10.45 214
All Other 9.18 252


Note that sampling error may be larger for other subgroups and that sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll.

Copies of the report and chartpack are available online at or, or by calling the Foundation's publications request line at 1-800-656-4533 and requesting publication #3300 (report), #3302 (chartpack), or #3301 (toplines).

The Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is a non- profit, independent national health care philanthropy and is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries.

The Pew Hispanic Center, based in Washington, DC, is a non-partisan research organization supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia. The Center is a project of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication.

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