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Hispanic Link News Service

For Hispanics, Money Isn't Everything-- But it Helps


July 16, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Hispanic Link News Service. All Rights Reserved.

Since hucksters in this country's commercial provinces discovered that Hispanics have increasingly significant amounts of cash to spend -- $380 billion annually, at last count -- more and more of them are hiring market researchers to determine how to get a piece of our purse. Are we brand-loyal? Do we use coupons? What color cereal boxes attract us? That's been the usual line of questioning.

But now the American Association of Retired Persons -- for whatever motives -- has come along and presented a more basic question to us: How do we define our quality of life in terms of money?

(percentages) Source: AARP survey
Latinos Whites Blacks Asians
Earning a lot of money 42 23 40 41
Seeing the world 44 22 32 48
Becoming well educated 93 79 90 89
A good marriage 87 81 76 85
An interesting job 86 77 83 83
Living a long life 60 45 67 42
Strong religious faith 81 71 90 58

AARP asked that broad question, as well as other culturally defining ones, to representative groups of blacks, whites and Asians as well -- 2,366 persons in all. There were no Viagra queries. No vacation preference options. In fact, the survey sampled all adults, 18 years and older, based on their presence in the population. Thus, Latino respondents -- who had the option of responding in Spanish or English -- on average were younger and less educated than the other groups. Only slightly more than half were born in the United States, contrasted to more than 90 percent for whites and blacks.

The survey probed indelicately into such areas as: "Did lack of money ever make you decide to stay married, instead of getting a divorce?'' Not Catholicism. M-o-n-e-y.

Surprisingly, three out of eight Hispanics -- 38 percent of those who responded -- actually confessed to the poll-takers that, yes, lack of money kept them loyal to their vows. Only half that many whites -- 19 percent -- saw poverty as a "positive'' factor in family fidelity. Yet 12 percent of Latinos, versus just 7 percent of whites, identified insufficient financial resources as causing them to divorce or separate.

"Money and the American Family,'' AARP's newly released 62-page report on the survey's findings, also shows that Latinos measure success, in higher proportions than whites, by factors such as strong family relationships, living a long life and religious faith.

Latino experts generally confirm the response patterns. "Within the Latino community, especially in Mexican-American, rural-based, Catholic-based communities, success or well-being is not about money,'' says Aida Hurtado of the University of California, Santa Cruz, department of psychology. "Money is not the primary motivation for Latinos. We measure personal success on how it relates to and bears on our families and communities. This is a natural extension of our cultural practices.''

Fifty-six percent of the Latinos reported their household income at under $30,000. This contrasted dramatically with 40 percent for blacks, 24 percent for Asians and 27 percent for whites. Yet 65 percent of Latinos said they were relatively happy with their current financial status; however, they were almost twice as likely as whites (42 percent vs. 23 percent) to consider money an indicator of a successful life.

Responses to other questions found additional divisions on the influence money plays:

-- Financial concerns caused Latinos, more often than whites (26 percent vs. 10 percent), to postpone having a family, with 24 percent of Latino families, compared to 11 percent of whites, deciding not to have children or have another child.

-- Latinos were nearly twice as likely as whites, 24 percent to 13 percent, to retire later in life, with 65 percent saying they will have to work beyond age 65 to have enough money to live on.

-- Twice as many (40 percent vs. 20 percent) said they postponed or did not attend college because they did not have the resources.

-- And they were twice as likely (39 percent to 20 percent) to forgo necessary health care. Additionally, 41 percent of Latinos, vs. 32 percent of whites, identified lack of money as a deciding factor in the need to work outside the home, rather than staying home with children.

"There isn't as much discretionary income among Latinos as there is with more established communities,'' explains Edgar Rivas, vice president for policy at the National Hispanic Council on Aging. "Part of this includes taking care of our families or sending money back (to home countries).''

Two final questions show the thinking of Hispanics and blacks in marked contrast to that of whites and Asians:

How likely is it that having a lot of money makes a person?
(percentages) Source: AARP survey
Hispanic Black White Asians
Too greedy 49 49 35 33
Insensitive to other people 37 39 24 27

But rather than derived from culture, those replies could have more to do with the feelings of the haves and the have-nots.

For more information on the study, visit the AARP Web site at

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