Media Acculturation Is Changing the Latin American Consumer Profile

Latin American consumers are strong financial services participantsWith virtually unrivaled buying power and an ever-growing presence in the U.S. economy, Latin Americans have been a formidable consumer segment for years. The financial services industry, in particular, has benefited from the Hispanic population as Latino consumers have been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreary picture for issuers of credit cards. Level of acculturation is one of the biggest factors determining use of financial services by Latino Americans.

Media acculturation, defined based on a person's involvement watching English-language television, has created significant demographic differences across the Latino population. According to Consumer Payments in the U.S.: The Latino Market, a 2012 report by market research publisher Packaged Facts, more highly media-acculturated Latinos who watch only English-language television display several telling characteristics that set them apart from other Hispanic Americans. These findings include:

  • More highly media-acculturated Latinos are younger.  Around half (51%) of Latinos watching English-language TV alone in the past week are under the age of 35, compared to 31% of those watching Spanish-language TV only.

  • Acculturation brings a higher level of educational attainment.  Of Latinos watching English-language TV only, 17% have a college degree or more, while 15% of those watching both English- and Spanish-language TV have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

  • One in seven (15%) of Latinos with a high degree of media acculturation are employed as managers and professionals.  

  • One in five (20%) Latinos watching English-only TV have a household income of $100,000 or more, compared to 11% of those watching Spanish-language TV only.

  • Household size and structure changes significantly as the degree of media acculturation increases.  For example, compared to Latinos with a low degree of media acculturation, high-acculturation Latinos are less likely to live in a household with three or more adults (44% vs. 55%) and with two or more children (29% vs. 43%).

Demographic differences associated with the degree of acculturation of Latino consumers translate into significant differences in the way they pay their bills. Latinos watching English-language TV only are much more likely to pay their bills online and have them automatically deducted from a bank account. They are less likely to pay their bills in person or to use cash.

Packaged Facts found a substantial correlation between level of media acculturation and the use of credit and debit cards. While 23% of high-acculturation Latinos pay their bills with a credit card and 28% use a debit or prepaid card, the comparable percentages for Latinos with a low degree of acculturation are 11% and 10%. 

Additionally, more than half of Latinos (52%) ranking high on the media acculturation scale have credit cards, compared to 46% of those ranking in the middle (those who watch a mix of English- and Spanish-language television), and 33% of those on the low end of media acculturation (those who watch Spanish-language television almost exclusively). Likewise, 3 in 4 (76%) Latinos with a high degree of media acculturation have a debit or ATM card, compared to 65% and 46% of those lower on the scale.

The continuing exceptional growth of the Latino population is expected to translate into even more significant opportunities for issuers of credit and debit cards-especially as older Latinos become acculturated and as younger, often already acculturated Latinos mature into adulthood. The safety and convenience afforded by prepaid cards will also spur strong growth in usage by Latinos.


Thanks for reading!

Daniel Granderson

Daniel Granderson
Research Analyst

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Topics: Demographics