Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Saving Practices of New Canadians from Vietnam and Laos

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Saving Practices of New Canadians from Vietnam and Laos

Article excerpt

This study is the first to focus on saving patterns of a growing group of newcomers to Canada--people of Asian origin who arrived as refugees. Data are from personal interviews with 649 Boat People (Chinese Vietnamese, ethnic Vietnamese, and Laotians) who settled in Canada between 1979-81. Saving money was reported by 80 percent, with the usual pattern being to save money left after paying expenses. Main reasons for saving are emergencies and education of children. Nontraditional methods (bank accounts and Registered Retirement Savings Plans) indicate that the newcomers have access to and are using formal financial services. Several variables (i.e., age and marital status) that are usually associated with savings were not significant; but, as in other studies, higher education, satisfaction with income, and employment were associated with having savings. Ethnic differences suggest differing rates of acculturation for this group.

Canada, like the United States, has been built by immigrants and refugees from many nations. In the past few decades the primary source of newcomers to Canada has shifted from European to Asian countries, with that shift occurring in the 1980s (Statistics Canada 1996a). [1] These Asian newcomers include the Vietnamese and Laotian refugees (the Boat People of 1979-81) who are the focus of this paper.

The consumer population is changing--new cultural groups have been added and there have been recent arrivals from countries already represented in the cultural mosaic. In Canada, with an official policy of multiculturalism, and in the U.S., with questions about the viability of a melting pot approach, there seems to be an emerging interest in integration (retaining aspects of one's original culture and also adopting aspects of the host culture) and an erosion of assimilation (replacing the original with the new culture) as the norm. These trends--an emphasis on integration and non--European immigration-suggest that our present knowledge about Canadian and American consumer patterns requires updating to identify differences and commonalities among the residents of these countries and to identify variables affecting those patterns. Then consumer education programs, as well as marketing campaigns, might be targeted more effectively for the Asian groups by identifying when culture makes a difference in consumer patterns.

There has been limited research attention to consumer practices of Asians in North America, and most of it has not identified year of immigration as a variable. From the available research, there is some indication that Asian Canadians have different expenditure patterns than European Canadians (Abdel-Ghany and Sharpe 1997) and Asian Americans differ from Caucasian, Hispanic, and African Americans in their expenditures (Fan 1994). Asians are included along with Native Americans in the "other" category in the public use data tapes of the 1989 Survey of Consumer Finances. From that data set, Xiao (1996) found that Caucasians are more likely to have various financial assets (e.g., IRA or Keogh, savings bonds, stocks, savings accounts) than other racial groups (African American, Hispanic, and other ethnic groups including Asian).

In reviewing the money management research on racial, ethnic, and limited income families, Bowen, Lago, and Furry (1997) focused their review on African American and Hispanic Americans. Reasons for excluding Asians/Pacific Islanders were that they tend to be better off financially, they have lower rates of single-parent households, and they are a smaller, less rapidly growing minority than African American or Hispanic populations. Asian minority groups that have received considerable research attention in terms of their adjustment to life in North America are the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmong and urban Lao (see Caplan, Whit-more, and Choy 1989; Desbarats 1986; Haines 1989). Because their time in North America has been short and because other problems, such as economic and cultural adaptation may have been more urgent, there has been limited research information on their consumer and financial behaviors. …

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