Understanding Hispanic Acculturation
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The Road to Cultural Fluency begins with Collage Group. Fill out the form to download a sample of the Hispanic Acculturation insights

By 2030, one in every five Americans will be Hispanic. 

The larger the Hispanic population grows, the more important it becomes to understand, appreciate, and activate on the diversity found within. It is therefore imperative for brands and marketers to understand how this segment varies internally, and not just in comparison to other multicultural segments. To do this, the Collage Group provides an Acculturation Model to evaluate differences within this segment. Our model centers on language usage and cultural self-perception, with the general breakdown as follows:
  1. Acculturated Hispanic: More likely to use English across language contexts, and to identify as American over Hispanic
  2. Bicultural Hispanic: More likely to use a mix of English and Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as both American and Hispanic
  3. Unacculturated Hispanic: More likely to use Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as Hispanic over American

Just at the demographic level, we see tremendous differences across these Hispanic acculturation segments. For example, Acculturated and Bicultural Hispanic consumers are younger, more highly educated and affluent, and more likely to have been born in the United States.

But these demographic differences only go so far. To give our members a better picture, we fielded a survey in January 2020 to a representative sample of 1553 Hispanic consumers. The survey focused on answering three key questions for marketing across Hispanic acculturation segments:

  1. Language Usage – Should I Communicate in Spanish or English?
  2. Cultural Affinity – Which Cultural Cues Should I Activate On?
  3. Preferred Labels – How Should I Refer to My Consumers?

Keep reading to see what we learned about each of these topics and download the attached documents for a selection of our summary findings.

Language Usage – Should I Communicate in Spanish or English?

When it comes to language, there are two things to consider. First, the ability to speak English. We see that three quarters of the U.S. Hispanic population speak English “well” or “very well,” but this does vary by acculturation. Only six percent of Unacculturated Hispanic consumers say they speak English “very well,” while over two thirds admit they do not speak English well or even at all.

This explains why we see that Unacculturated Hispanic consumers to interact with Spanish-speaking Hispanic professionals, particularly when it comes to health care and financial services…

Cultural Affinity – Which Cultural Cues Should I Activate On?

Of course, language is not the sole differentiator across Hispanic Acculturation segments. It is also important to understand how connected Hispanic consumers feel with their cultural heritage. Over three quarters of U.S. Hispanic consumers say that they take pride in their Hispanic traditions and the influence Hispanic culture has had on America, and that it is important to keep that heritage a part of their lives.

And about the same number agree that it is important to support Hispanic-owned companies, as well as those which hire and promote Hispanic workers, stand up for the Hispanic community, and represent Hispanics authentically. There are no differences across Hispanic Acculturation for these sentiments, which means that brands showing up in these ways can cut across language barriers to resonate with the broader Hispanic community.

The key differentiator for the Acculturated Hispanic segment is that only a third of them regularly “feel Hispanic” in everyday life. Compare this to two thirds of Bicultural and 80 percent of Unacculturated Hispanic consumers. For more nuance, you can look to levels of engagement with Hispanic passion points across acculturation segments…

Preferred Labels – How Should I Refer to My Consumers?

Over the past few years, there has been increased discussion and controversy over the use of specific terms referring to the Hispanic population. It has long been the Collage standard to use the word “Hispanic,” but we now have data to support your own decisions in this space.

As you can see, the most popular way for Hispanic consumers to self-identify is in direct reference to their heritage country – as Mexican, Cuban, Bolivian, etc. About one third of Hispanic consumers identify in this way, but it is much more popular for the Unacculturated Hispanic segment. The second most popular term to use is “Latino” or “Latina.” These two options together have a slight plurality for Bicultural Hispanic consumers. For the Acculturated Hispanic segment, the most popular term to use is “Hispanic.” If your target Hispanic consumers have a variety of heritage countries, then your best bet will be “Hispanic” when communicating in English and “Latino” or “Latina” for communicating in Spanish.

Despite the popularity of the term “Latinx” in young, progressive, and especially queer Hispanic spaces, only one percent of Hispanic consumers opt for that term. This finding aligns with others’ research on the subject, but we wanted to dig deeper. We also asked Hispanic consumers whether they felt positively, negatively, or neutral towards the use of various terms to describe people of their background…

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