In 2011 the Culturati U.S. Hispanic Segmentation Model proved that the U.S. Hispanic acculturation is non-linear and the start/end points are not definitive.
This new white paper seeks to present the why’s behind the shifts that have shaped this market in the past four years and that will continue to form this burgeoning market in the years to come. It is imperative for marketers to be one step ahead of this evolution to ensure that their U.S. Hispanic strategy is reflective of today’s Hispanic consumer.
Culturati’s attitudes and values-based segmentation model provides an understanding of U.S. Hispanics and the various shades of acculturation in terms of beliefs, value systems and cultural mindsets. After analyzing the key dimensions and accounting for media language preferences, four distinct and actionable Hispanic segments were identified.
As U.S. Hispanics acculturate they begin to adopt certain values and lifestyle elements of the dominant American culture (forward acculturation) but they may also move in the opposite direction deciding to revive their own roots through the phenomena of retro-acculturation. Culturati recently set out to understand the dynamics of this evolution to reveal how each Hispanic segment is changing and the factors responsible for triggering retro and forward acculturation.
A two-year longitudinal survey was conducted between 2013 to 2015, where a total of 400 Hispanic consumers were identified by segment in the pre and post waves to identify which of them had changed segment and whether they moved forward or backward within the acculturation continuum. They were also asked whether specific events had occurred in their lives, based on a list of events that may impact acculturation.
Additionally, a series of online in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted among those who changed segment in order to further explore how their cultural attitudes had shifted and what they felt contributed to that change. To understand the long term implications of these attitudinal shifts, projections through 2030 were calculated by modeling data from U.S. Census projections to incorporate the impact of Hispanic demographic changes by gender, age, nativity, years in the U.S. (for foreign born), parental nativity (for U.S. born), income and presence of children.
What did we learn?
Hispanic identity in the U.S. is multidimensional and multifaceted. We confirmed that U.S. Hispanic identity follows a path that is not linear or definitive, but rather a continuous course of transformation where profound shifts in cultural identity occur as Hispanics forward or retro acculturate.
Through forward and retro acculturation, the continued growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and an increase in the proportion of U.S. born vs. foreign born Hispanics, Culturati projects the influential bicultural Savvy Blender segment becoming increasingly larger compared to the other segments.
On the other hand, the Latinista (Culturally Hispanic) segment remains important but is gradually shrinking while the Heritage Keeper (Bicultural) and Ameri-Fan (Culturally American) segments remain stable.
By 2023 Savvy Blenders (Biculturals) are projected to surpass Culturally Hispanics (Latinistas) as the dominant Hispanic segment, accounting for 37% of Hispanics by 2030 (Figure 2). This marks the importance, more than ever, to understand Hispanic acculturation, its evolution and the implications for the future as Hispanics continue to grow but also redefine their Hispanic identity.
The Hispanic Segment Journey
The Hispanic Identity journey consists of three distinct cultural states: Deliberate Hispanic Dominant Culture, Natural State of Biculturalism and Deliberate American Dominant Culture (Figure 3). These cultural states are driven by conscious and subconscious forces that shape an individual’s attitudes and beliefs and occur at each person’s own pace – the journey is not necessarily sequential nor do Hispanics eventually travel through all three different states.
Interestingly, nearly 3 in 10 of Culturally Hispanic Latinistas are moving directly into the Bicultural Savvy Blender space while Savvy Blenders who retro-acculturate are most likely to move into the Bicultural Heritage Keeper space. Shifts in Heritage Keepers are split fairly evenly between retro and forward acculturation. In many cases this is due to the conscious recognition, acceptance and gradual redefinition of their identity.
Furthermore, the journey of U.S. Hispanic identity is unique to each individual as their journey is often interrupted and modified by internal as well as external factors. Significant life decisions, unexpected events or changes in lifestyle and life-stage can send an individual to another state, causing them to forward or retro acculturate.
Hispanics in the various states are in very different mindsets about their lives and themselves, and experience different tensions, all of which can influence their openness to certain ideas. As they travel through different states, they sometimes feel differently about their core values and have varying degrees of conscious awareness of them.
- Conscious evolution: Core values are considered explicitly Hispanic and conscious choices are made to preserve them.
- Subconscious evolution: Core values are tested, strengthened and refined as American values are incorporated more subconsciously.
Life events linked to personal growth and self-improvement (financial and educational) are key drivers of forward acculturation. On the other hand, retro-acculturation is triggered by life events that may be outside of an individual’s direct control but are the catalyst for a renewed desire to reconnect with Hispanic culture. It is important to note that the ease and pace of transitions is greatly impacted by differences in income and education – forward acculturation is highly accelerated among higher levels of income and education.
These life changing events lead to a process of self-discovery and re-evaluation of identity and life priorities. As they move through the retro or forward acculturation journey, a shift in mindset occurs that allows them to feel more comfortable in their own skin. They become more accepting of themselves and embracive of their identity.
In addition, reconnecting with others and new relationships further impact the retro and forward acculturation transformation. For retro-acculturators, closer relationships with other Hispanics contribute to a stronger sense of self and seamless identification with Hispanic roots which they previously lacked. For forward acculturators, exposure to Non-Hispanic environments is an important factor in allowing them to further integrate themselves into American society. This often leads to a greater appreciation for diversity and the American lifestyle.
The Retro Acculturation Transformation
Retro acculturators are characterized by a heightened awareness of their Hispanic and American sides, an acknowledgment of the fear of losing their Hispanic identity and renewed appreciation for their Hispanic heritage. This is followed by conscious and deliberate choices to reconnect with their Hispanic self.
The strongest unique triggers for retro-acculturation are moving to a new home (38% vs. 26% for Forward), becoming a parent (21% vs. 12% for Forward) and getting married/moving in with significant other (18%. vs. 9% for Forward). These triggers result in:
- An increased desire to reconnect with Hispanic culture and ensure that cultural identity was retained
- An awakened emotional need to connect with other Hispanics and learn more about their Hispanic heritage, leading them to identify with Hispanic culture stronger than before.
- A deeper appreciation for Hispanic culture and traditions (e.g., celebrations, faith, respect, etc.)
The Forward Acculturation Transformation
Forward acculturators have experienced a subconscious evolution in cultural identity and adoption of American lifestyle elements and values, yet they continue to retain core values. Forward acculturation is most associated with a significant change in financial situation, with 28% experiencing a positive change in financial situation over the last two years (vs. 19% for Retro). To a lesser degree, increased interaction with other ethnicities (29%), starting to work (16%) and higher education (17%). These triggers result in:
- A growing appreciation and respect for the opportunities the U.S. had to offer (e.g., education, financial growth, etc.) and realization that the opportunities were endless but each individual was responsible for taking action to improve their life in this country.
- A shift from a reactive to proactive mindset and greater focus on the future (i.e., “the future is in my hands”).
Holidays are a prime example of occasions when Hispanic and American traditions converge for both retro and forward acculturators.
- Retro acculturators seek opportunities to practice Hispanic traditions that they had left behind in an effort to further connect with their Hispanic side and learn more about their culture. Participating in traditional Hispanic holidays is viewed as an important symbol of Hispanic identity, connection to family and an authentic celebration of the Hispanic lifestyle.
- Forward acculturators are adopting certain elements of American culture (e.g., celebrations) and do so with ease by tailoring them to their own customs. This is viewed positively as a symbol of inclusiveness, integration and appreciation for cultural diversity but also as a symbol of remaining authentic and true to their roots.
Forward acculturators express low tension regarding the blending of cultures and value the ability to be bicultural. Retro acculturators also value biculturalism but feel a stronger pull to their Hispanic identity than in previous years.
Forward Acculturators acknowledge that their perception of cultural identity has changed. They now believed that being both “Hispanic and American equally” was possible because they had the ability to pick and choose what to retain from Hispanic culture and what to adopt from American culture. This shift led to:
- A deep appreciation for the opportunity to be part of both cultures and ultimately benefit from the best of each.
- An ability to customize their own blend of biculturalism to fit their lifestyle – key to shaping their identity as they forward acculturated.
- In particular, those that had children had learned from their children’s bicultural experience and had witnessed the value that being part of both cultures could bring.
Retro Acculturators have a stronger connection to their Hispanic roots than in previous years but their connection to American culture remains unchanged.
- It seems that Retro Acculturators now feel more comfortable accepting their Hispanic side more than or equally as their American side. The process of finding/reconnecting with their Hispanic side has brought them closer to their roots while at the same time not losing their connection to their American side.
- Already coming from a bicultural mindset, they appreciate being able to blend both Hispanic and American cultures in their daily lives and continued to see the advantages. However, having gone through the retro acculturation transformation their renewed appreciation for their Hispanic identity is powerful and leads them to feel like they are “more Hispanic” or “less American” than they were in the past.
Impact on Shopping and Advertising
Retailer preferences have expanded across both segments; Forward Acculturators are incorporating Non-Hispanic stores while Retro Acculturators are incorporating Hispanic stores.
- Forward acculturators are less likely than before to need help when shopping and therefore have branched out of their comfort zone to seek value and variety at Non-Hispanic stores.
- Retro acculturators are more inclined to “live like a Hispanic” and cook with ingredients found in Hispanic stores.
Interestingly, both Retro and Forward acculturators identify with Hispanic advertising. From a relevancy and emotional connection perspective, Hispanic advertising is viewed as engaging and has the ability to connect with them on a cultural level.
- Forward acculturators become more neutral towards Spanish advertising being more informative and relevant to them.
- Retro acculturators move from a neutral stance on Spanish ads to seeing more value in them. The neutral attitude has the most stability overall.
- We have learned that, in the short-run, forward and retro acculturation tends to balance out the movement between segments. Overall, the segments are fairly stable with slight movement from Latinistas to Heritage Keepers and Savvy Blenders and slight net retro acculturation from Ameri-fans to Savvy Blenders. However, in the long-run, demographic trends will impact the segment distribution.
- It is important to keep in mind the growth of 2nd and 3rd generations of Hispanics that are choosing to redefine their identity and the phenomena of retro and forward acculturation that is ultimately contributing to the continued of the bicultural space.
- There is also a population and demographic shift that is impacting the segments, in particular the Heritage Keeper segment which is projected to remain stable. However, forward acculturation from Latinistas and retro acculturation from Savvy Blenders is expected to keep the percentage of Heritage Keepers stable.
- A larger segment of Savvy Blenders that include those that have retro and forward acculturated suggests an evolved bicultural segment that will continue to assert their presence and influence in American society as their collective identity takes further shape. It is important to note that most Savvy Blenders are not forward acculturating to become Ameri-Fans but instead are making a conscious choice to retro-acculturate.
- The implications for marketers are vast given that the projected growth of the Savvy Blender segment and stability of the Heritage Keeper segment underscores the importance of cultural relevancy. As predicted, a well-integrated strategy that includes Culturally Hispanic and Bicultural is necessary. Despite new generations being predominantly U.S. born and immigration declining, the power of cultural relevancy may increase given that Savvy Blenders are characterized by a bicultural identity that is natural, fluid and strongly celebrated.
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