Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Comparison of Mexican-American and Anglo-American Attitudes toward Money

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Comparison of Mexican-American and Anglo-American Attitudes toward Money

Article excerpt

This study compared attitudes toward money of Mexican- and Anglo-American consumers. Based on the Hispanic/Mexican-American literature, hypotheses were generated for four dimensions of a money attitude scale (MAS) developed by Yamauchi and Templer (19#2). Mexican-Americans were found to have lower scores on a Retention/Time dimension that reflects willingness to delay spending money to achieve gratification. Contrary to previous studies, Mexican-Americans were found to have lower scores on a Quality dimension, calling into question an assumption found in much of the literature that Hispanic consumers prefer high prestige goods/services. Hypotheses pertaining to Power/Prestige and Distrust/Anxiety dimensions were also not confirmed suggesting further reservations about Hispanic consumer characterizations found in the consumer behavior literature.

A slow but steadily increasing body of literature is developing regarding the understanding of Hispanics as an emerging component of the U.S. consumer population. While it is unrealistic to characterize Hispanics as homogeneous in cultural or even in linguistic background, it has been of interest to researchers to look for behaviors which might distinguish Hispanics as consumers. A number of factors have been evaluated as particularly salient in Hispanic consumer behavior, including considerations of price and quality, brand loyalty, and propensity to shop (Saegert and Hoover 1985; Saegert, Hoover, and Hilger 1985; Wilkes and Valencia 1985) and these have been investigated as they relate to levels of acculturation (Wallendorf and Reilly 1983) and strength of ethnic identity (Hoyer and Deshpande 1982).

Investigation of such variables perhaps proceeds from certain stereotypes of Hispanics vis-a-vis those of other ethnic groups (e.g., North Americans of Northern European ancestry) that focus on the presence of such cultural traits as degree of fatalism and willingness to delay gratification. Along these lines5 an area that might be said to relate to cultural traits is Hispanic attitudes toward money. This was suggested by Penaloza and Gilly when they wrote: "In addition to differences in purchasing patterns [between Hispanic and Anglo-Americans], there may also be cultural differences in the symbolic nature and perceived value of goods and services" (1986, 294).

Recent investigations have uncovered an association between money and personality traits such as sensitivity and emotional stability (Bailey and Gustafson 1991) and compulsive behavior (Hanley and Wilhelm 1992) and between money and sociodemographic variables such as income (Tang 1992), education (Furnham 1984), and age (Bailey and Lown 1993). For example, financial planners believe that personality traits and income constraints prevent many individuals from becoming "productive" clients for many financial services including tax planning, retirement, estate planning, insurance, and securities investments. Similarly, financial counselors recognize that many money management behaviors are the symptoms of deep-rooted attitudes (Mason 1992).

From a consumer affairs standpoint, it is of interest to know if a relatively close-knit ethnic group such as Hispanics might display different attitudes toward money than Anglo-Americans, especially in light of characterizations of Anglo-Americans as unduly preoccupied with material wealth (O'Guinn, Lee, and Faber 1986; Penaloza 1994). In an applied context, understanding Hispanics' attitudes toward money might be useful to certain government institutions that attempt to assist minority consumer education regarding the administration of money and the purchase of financial services such as investments, insurance, banking, and credit.

The present study used a modified version of MAS--money attitude scale (Gresham and Fontenot 1989)--to compare samples of one U.S. Hispanic subgroup, namely Mexican-Americans, with Anglo-Americans. Mexican-Americans constitute by far the largest representation of Hispanics in the United States, have the longest tradition, and are the fastest growing in the country (Skerry 1993) compared to other U. …

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