Glass Half Full
Latinos more optimistic than the rest of the American public.
While more than three-quarters of Americans are unhappy with the state of the nation, just more than half of Latinos express dissatisfaction, says a Pew survey examining Americans’ attitudes towards the direction the country is headed. According to Pew, 56 percent of Latinos are dissatisfied with how things are going in the U.S., with 38 percent stating satisfaction. Among Americans in general, 78 percent are unhappy with the nation’s direction.
While previous reports indicate that Latinos feel that they have suffered the most in this poor economy, this survey demonstrates an unflagging optimism among members of this demographic.
The main reason for this positive perspective, says Bernard J. Baca, PhD, LCSW, is that Latinos recognize where they came from and how far they’ve come.
“They are grateful for what they have here, which is often considerably better—financially, living circumstances—than [what they had in] their native countries,” he explains.
However, Baca notes, this may change with time as this cohort becomes more assimilated.
“Once they are used to the American way of life—[and achieve] financial success— they will start to complain about their circumstances like all other Americans,” he maintains. “As Latinos become more Americanized they will learn to express their opinions like every other American in this country. That is what the acculturation/assimilation process tells us.”
As ethnic groups acculturate, their priorities change, Baca explains. While in their home countries and living in presumably rural surroundings, the focus was more likely to be on the good of the group. As families assimilate and become more urbanized, the priority starts to shift.
“The focus is on the movement from rural (for example, group culture) to urban culture (the individual is the focus of all indicators of success including living arrangements, nuclear family versus extended family, and being just like everyone else,” he notes.
The current wave of optimism that Latinos demonstrate may be more a function of a “stage necessary to live in a foreign land,” Baca contends.
Without a positive perspective, he states, many Latinos would exacerbate the very challenges they already face.
“Those that don't accept the change will be very depressed and far sadder in their new environment,” Baca says.
“The essence is that as people become Americanized—often a 3 generation model—they will become no different than any other assimilated group,” he concludes. “They will intermarry with a variety of other ethnic groups to combine an interesting and robust group of folks who are an amalgamation of various ethnicities without being tied into any one of them other than being American.”
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