Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

The Bold and the Bankable: How the Nuestro Barrio Telenovela Reaches Latino Immigrants with Financial Education

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

The Bold and the Bankable: How the Nuestro Barrio Telenovela Reaches Latino Immigrants with Financial Education

Article excerpt

This article presents and evaluates Nuestro Barrio, a Spanish-language telenovela designed to reach Latino immigrants with financial education. Nuestro Barrio's educational model is discussed in the context of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, which defines the stages individuals move through as they make incremental progress toward sustained behavior change. The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change is also used to inform a limited evaluation of the impact of Nuestro Barrio on viewer behavior. The empirical evidence is consistent with Nuestro Barrio's intended educational effects, suggesting that Nuestro Barrio is particularly useful as a tool for raising viewer awareness.

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Raul Yzaguirre, President of the National Council of La Raza, testified to Congress in 2002 that targeted approaches to reaching Latino immigrants should be a priority for financial education efforts. (1) This contention was echoed by participants of a forum sponsored by the GAO (2004), who argued that the specific needs of new immigrants require tailored outreach strategies. These statements suggest that the translation of existing financial education programs is insufficient to meet the needs of new Latino immigrants. Instead, reaching Latino immigrants with financial education requires targeted delivery strategies that focus on topics of distinct interest to Latino immigrants while recognizing diversity within the Latino population. Unfortunately, this model of tailored financial education provision contrasts with the majority of existing financial education initiatives, which seek to widely distribute a standard curriculum.

This article presents and evaluates the alternative financial education model underlying Nuestro Barrio, a Spanish-language telenovela designed to reach Latino immigrants with financial education. Initially run on network television in North Carolina, Nuestro Barrio attempts to attract viewers with its entertainment value as a telenovela while simultaneously providing financial education content. Episodes air in Spanish and address topics of specific interest to Latino immigrants. These characteristics suggest that Nuestro Barrio may overcome several of the barriers that face traditional financial education programs. In particular, Nuestro Barrio's use of the telenovela format to deliver financial education content may allow it to reach households that might not otherwise seek out financial education.

In presenting and discussing Nuestro Barrio's capacity as an educational tool, we rely on the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM). First developed by researchers studying health behaviors, TTM defines the stages individuals progress through as they move toward sustained behavior change (Prochaska and Norcross 2001). This model is suited to framing the potential benefits of Nuestro Barrio, as the TTM stages explicitly recognize that individuals begin in precontemplation--a stage at which individuals lack awareness of the potential benefits of behavior change. Where Nuestro Barrio may carry the potential to reach these households, traditional financial education programs serve individuals who have sought out instruction and therefore are likely to have progressed beyond precontemplation.

The TTM framework is also used to inform the empirical evaluation of Nuestro Barrio's impacts with respect to two behaviors: bank account ownership and preparation for homeownership. In defining the stages of behavioral change, TTM offers a structure for measuring incremental progress toward behavior change. A first goal of this article is to present Nuestro Barrio's educational model using the TTM framework to discuss Nuestro Barrio's potential as an educational tool. The second objective of this article is to evaluate the impact of Nuestro Barrio on viewer behavior for a small sample of viewers in North Carolina. Interpretation of the evaluation results is limited by the nature of this sample. …

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