Mid-scale Hispanic families and single parents in gateway communities
Middle-aged naturalized citizens from Mexico make their way to Cuidad Strivers, a family segment with a mix of single parents and couples with children living in downscale city neighborhoods. A heavily Spanish segment - two-thirds of residents don’t speak English - many came to these immigrant gateway communities in big cities in the West and Northeast in search of a better life. However, it hasn’t completely gone to plan: with their poor educations - only 20 percent have finished high school - these adults tend to earn low wages as blue-collar laborers or service-sector workers. Most can’t afford to buy a home; they tend to live in inexpensive rental apartments in transient neighborhoods. One-third of residents change their address every year.
Cuidad Strivers have little disposable income, which provides for only modest lifestyles. When they’re not working, these parents look for child-oriented leisure activities. They take their kids to zoos and aquariums, and a big outing is a trip to a theme park. The adults like to go out at night to dance or shoot pool, and they’re big on fitness; they jog, do aerobics and play weekend soccer and baseball. Most spend their evenings at home, though; they cook, listen to Latin music, watch TV novellas and movies, and read Spanish-language magazines.
In the marketplace, these price-sensitive consumers look to shop at local stores, where the clerks sometimes speak Spanish, and at discount departments stores where the clearance racks sag with merchandise. They frequent retail chains such as Fashion Bug and Burlington Coat Factory as well as toy stores, where they indulge their children with games and dolls. They like to shop with their family, but they also enjoy just browsing to check out new stores and fashion. In these households, they make an effort for health by cooking with fresh ingredients they pick up from a local market or produce stand.
With nearly 90 percent of Cuidad Strivers speaking Spanish at home, this segment is a strong market for Latin media, especially cable channels like Telemundo and Galavision and magazines such as People en Español and Latina. Relatively few have access to the Internet, but those who do go online to visit Websites with information on jobs and apartments and to keep in touch with friends through social media sites. At home, their radios are on all day, with Latin music providing the soundtrack to their activities.
The downscale members of Cuidad Strivers work long hours trying to improve the lives of their families. Despite their financial challenges, they remain ambitious and optimistic. Most are family-oriented and fill their homes with food and art from their native Mexico. They also express concern about the crime and pollution that are part of their neighborhoods. However, many are apathetic when it comes to politics, with few registering to vote or joining a political party. They’re more likely to trust their faith; this segment has a high concentration who express moderate family values.
Cuidad Strivers are overwhelmingly Hispanic, and nearly 70 percent of the household heads are of Mexican origin. The adults are generally between the ages of 35 and 50, and the households contain a mix of singles and couples with children; nearly 55 percent are single-parent families and more than 40 percent are couples with children. Their education achievement is low; more than 80 percent never completed high school. Their job types are about evenly divided between blue-collar work and service-sector industries, typically in construction, manufacturing and food services.
Cuidad Strivers are often found in the poor neighborhoods of cities and metro areas mostly in the West and Northeast. Some eight in ten households rent apartments - typically older, low-rise buildings, garden-style apartments and duplexes on small lots. Those who own property typically pay about $177,000 for a modest home. A majority of the housing stock was built before 1950. While the rents may be low, these residents complain about the difficulty of finding a nicer place to live. Many are worried about crime and feel unsafe walking home at night. In this transient area, one-third moved in during the last year, and two-thirds within the last three years.
The families and single parents of Cuidad Strivers lead relatively frugal lifestyles. There’s little money for travel, and they go to only a handful of entertainment venues - most of them family- oriented, such as zoos, aquariums, theme parks and state fairs. However, they also patronize billiards halls, bingo games and dance performances. With many unmarried, they try to look good and engage in regular fitness activities: jogging, aerobics and riding a stationary bike. On weekends, they gather at nearby parks and recreation centers to play soccer, baseball, volleyball and racquetball. In this segment, status is found in taking the family to Disneyland or Universal Studios.
Despite low incomes, these folks like to shop. Lacking a car, many live within walking distance of favorite stores where they know the clerks, some of whom speak Spanish. When they can arrange transportation, they head out to discount retailers like Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Dress for Less, Fashion Bug and JCPenney. These consumers tend to shop with their family. Although they can’t afford a lot of new consumer electronics, they will buy their children plenty of toys and games - and camcorders for themselves to record their kids’ every achievement. In their homes, the popular activities include cooking, needlepoint, watching Spanish TV and listening to Latin-flavored music: Latin ballads, salsa, Mexican and Latin rock.
The media tastes of Cuidad Strivers also lean heavily to Spanish-language fare; they’re big fans of Spanish cable, radio and magazines. They describe themselves as TV addicts who tune in to channels like Univision, Telemundo, Discovery en Español and Galavision as well as MTV and Nickelodeon. They pick up many Spanish magazines that cover automotive, entertainment and women’s topics, and they also read Rolling Stone, Parents and Glamour - some to improve their English skills. Only a small percentage regularly go online, typically to communicate with friends on social networks or download music. While they make a weak market for most advertising, they are responsive to ads in public spaces - in buses and bus shelters, subways and subway platforms, and on billboards.
Cuidad Strivers are constantly striving to improve their life. Many are family-oriented and admit that they came to the U.S. in part to provide their kids with things they didn’t have. They like spending time with their family and say that their home plays a significant role in their identity. Going to church on Sunday is also an important part of the lifestyle.
Having come from another country, they’re open-minded about other cultures. They say that they don’t judge people by the way they live. Their own cultural roots play a major role - they fill their homes with Mexican food and art.
Cuidad Strivers may face daily economic struggles, but they still have long-term goals and ambitions. They believe in seizing opportunities in life and earning the respect of their peers. They concede that it’s better to have a boring job than no job. Though it’s hard for them to plan for the future, they still try to find better work so they can rise to the top of their career. These newcomers like taking risks - that’s how they came to America - and they describe themselves as optimists.
Cuidad Strivers have little interest in current affairs and most don’t vote. Their underlying political beliefs are liberal, generally aligning with the Democratic Party. But politics plays little role in their lives, and family values come first.
With their low incomes - under $40,000 - and few assets, Cuidad Strivers are barely getting by. They have little cash left over each week that can be set aside for savings. They claim that investing in the stock market is too risky and they own no investments more than the average. More than a third have no dealings with a bank whatsoever. Few have the credit ratings to be able to take on debt, and only a small fraction carries a small personal loan. Worried about identity theft from credit cards, they’re only half as likely as average Americans to even carry plastic. That means that they pay for virtually all products and bills using cash.
Most households in Cuidad Strivers can’t afford digital media and don’t go online. Those who do have access to the Internet frequent Websites that offer information and entertainment, instead of commercial applications like banking and shopping. These folks download music files and use bulletin boards; sites like Craigslist, Hulu, MTV and Univision are all popular in this segment. They also like social networks, using sites like Myspace and Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends they left behind in Mexico. The entertainment sites allow them to keep up with the latest Spanish-language novellas and popular culture.