The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Latino Consumer Acculturation

ABSTRACT - The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry is to explore the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation among immigrant Latino consumers, who represent one of the largest and fastest growing immigrant groups in the US. A literature review and in-depth interviews led to three emergent themes that we present here as propositions for future research. First, the pre-existing level of an immigrant’s self-esteem likely impacts the consumer’s progress through acculturation transition stages. Further, self-esteem seemingly affects the acculturation outcome. Finally, consumer’s self-esteem appears to influence the purchase, use and disposal of goods and services during the acculturation process. A better understanding of the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation may help marketers understand the self-esteem related roles and needs in the acculturation process and outcomes. This may lead to more effective marketing programs targeting the growing immigrant Latino segment.


Rachel Maldonado and Patriya Tansuha (1998) ,"The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Latino Consumer Acculturation", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 252-257.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 252-257


Rachel Maldonado, Washington State University

Patriya Tansuha, Washington State University


The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry is to explore the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation among immigrant Latino consumers, who represent one of the largest and fastest growing immigrant groups in the US. A literature review and in-depth interviews led to three emergent themes that we present here as propositions for future research. First, the pre-existing level of an immigrant’s self-esteem likely impacts the consumer’s progress through acculturation transition stages. Further, self-esteem seemingly affects the acculturation outcome. Finally, consumer’s self-esteem appears to influence the purchase, use and disposal of goods and services during the acculturation process. A better understanding of the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation may help marketers understand the self-esteem related roles and needs in the acculturation process and outcomes. This may lead to more effective marketing programs targeting the growing immigrant Latino segment.


A significant number of people enter the United States each year and become consumers in their "new world." Marketers are finding it increasingly important to understand how immigrant consumers adjust. Specifically, marketers want to kow what influences these individuals’ buying habits. This study focuses on the relationship between self-esteem and the acculturation process among Latino consumers and the resulting impact on their buying behavior.

A better understanding of this relationship may help marketers develop more effective marketing programs. For instance, Durgee (1986) found that self-esteem is effective as an advertising appeal as it is believed to be one of the strongest psychogenic needs. Further, people with low self-esteem have been found to be more susceptible to persuasion, and therefore may be more susceptible to self-esteem appeals. While marketing research recognizes self-esteem as a dimension of the self-concept, there has been little research on its direct impact beyond advertising. It is hoped that this exploratory study will provide some further insights on the role of self-esteem in influencing consumer behavior which can be investigated in subsequent quantitative studies.

The purpose of this study is to conduct a preliminary investigation of the relationship between self-esteem, acculturation and related consumption choices among Latino consumers. Investigating this relationship required us to first review some fundamental background information on the Latino market, self-esteem, and consumer acculturation. We then conducted in-depth interviews with seven immigrant Latino consumers. Three themes emerged as a result which we stated toward the end of this paper as propositions for future research. But first, let us review some important statistics about Latino consumers in the United States.


The 1990 US Census reports that Mexicans and other Latinos represent one of the largest immigrant groups to the US. Latinos are also one of the fastest growing segments of the US population with a growth of 53% between the 1980 and the 1990 census. Latinos are projected to become the nation’s largest minority group in the US, surpassing American blacks by the year 2010 (Corona and Hackett 1994).

Latinos are a diverse group ascribing to various identity nomenclatures which represent different social, cultural, and historical experiences. Examples include Cubano, Mexicano, Chicano or Hispanic etc. The term Latino is widely accepted because it encompasses a geographical dimension and is an insider’s nomenclature. Self-identification can be used as a segmenting tool. Marketing programs which are consistent with various subgroups’ cultural heritage and orientation will be more readily accepted.

The 1990 US Census (US Bureau of the Census 1993 and Corona and Hackett 1994) reported that fifty-six percent of the foreign born Latinos are from Mexico. The Latino population is a young market with an average age of 26 years compared to the nonLatino population’s average age of 34 years. Latinos are geographically concentrated with significant numbers residing in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. Latinos also tend to live in urban areas making them more easily reached with targeted marketing programs. The reports also showed that Latino immigrants are more likely than Anglos to live in families and to live in a household made up of a married couple with children. It is estimated that three fourths of Latinos speak Spanish at home and that two thirds of foreign-born Latinos are not fluent in English.

Marketing research indicates that many Latinos are brand loyal, favoring brands from their country of origin and nationally advertised brands which are perceived to be of high quality (Schwartz 1987 and Segal and Sosa 1983). This makes it more difficult for private brands and generic products to compete in this market. The above characteristics describe an enticing segment for US marketers to pursue.


This section discusses previous studies on self-esteem and consumer acculturation which provide the basis for the consumer interviews and the discussion of the emergent themes or propositions which follow.

Self-Esteem and Group Membership

Self-esteem is the pattern of beliefs an individual has about self-worth. It is one’s subjective self-evaluation developed from personal experiences of success or failure, interactions with others, maturation, heredity, and social learning. Self-esteem is also thought to be a function of perceived evaluation by significant others (Meggert 1993).

The literature has suggested many influences on the development and maintenance of self-esteem, the most pervasive being group influence. Rosenberg (1965, p. 63) stated that "Group-determined goals and standards, as well as accomplishments, must be considered in attempting to account for feelings of self-worth." Group membership influence on self-esteem can be viewed from two perspectives. The first is the individual’s self-identification as a group member, value (importance and salience) placed on membership and interpretation of the group’s disapproval or approval of the individual. The second perspective is the influence the group’s position in the group status hierarchy may have on the individual member’s self-esteem (Phinney 1995).

Ethnic identity is a related issue of group influence on individual self-esteem. Phinney (1995) reported several ethnic identity components that are closely tied to self-esteem. These include self-identification as a group member, attitudes and evaluations relative to one’s group, the attitude about oneself as a group member, and the extent of the individual’s ethnic knowledge and commitment. While ethnic identity may not have been a salient issue before moving to another culture, suddenly finding oneself as a member of a minority group may cause it to become an issue in the acculturation process.

Rosenberg (1965) discussed eight universal dimensions of self-esteem, one of which is stability. The stability dimension refers to whether a person has an enduring self-attitude which remains over time, or a situational self-attitude which varies from day to day. While many researchers see self-esteem as enduring, Rodin (1985) and Meggert (1993) provided examples of influences which may cause self-esteem to change. Both enduring and situational aspects of self-esteem will be considered in later sections which discuss the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation. Before discussing this relationship, we must first provide background information on the acculturation component of this study.

Consumer Acculturation Literature

Acculturation has been loosely defined as the changes that occur when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact (Berry, Trible, and Olmedo 1986). Acculturation is thought by some to be synonymous with assimilation. This is based on a linear assumption of acculturation. The following models of psychological acculturation show the process to be multi-linear with a set of outcome alternatives.

Berry and Kim (1988) identified three phases in the acculturation process including precontact, transition and adaptation. The transition phase includes the contact, conflict, and crisis stages. The adaptation phase is when the relations between the dominant and nondominant groups become temporarily stable. They consist of: assimilation (the relinquishing of cultural identity by individuals of the nondominant group and adoption of mainstream culture etc.), integration (maintenance of cultural integrity as well as the movement to become an integral part of the larger societal framework), separation (a self-imposed withdrawal or separation from the dominant society), and marginalization (relinquishment of nondominant group cultral identity while failing to adopt the culture of the dominant society).

Pe±aloza (1994) adopted many of Berry’s ideas into a consumer acculturation model containing movement, translation and adaptation processes. Pe±aloza identified four consumer acculturation outcomes of assimilation, maintenance, resistance, and segregation which can be correlated to Berry et al.’s outcomes of assimilation, integration, marginalization, and separation respectively. Our study combines these outcome terms to maintain this correlation.

Other marketers have also viewed acculturation as a relevant concept in understanding and predicting consumer behavior. Jun, Ball, and Gentry (1993) and Gentry, Jun, and Tansuhaj (1995) showed that marketers can use the attitudinal and behavioral components of acculturation to segment immigrant markets. This would allow marketers to adjust marketing plans to meet the needs of individuals in various outcomes or modes.

Khairullah (1995), Lee (1993) and Kara (1996) followed the linear or assimilation model of acculturation and used the level of acculturation as a segmenting tool. Khairullah (1995) found that the level of acculturation impacted ad preference among Asian-Indian immigrants to the US. The research showed that low acculturated Asian-Indian immigrants preferred Indian advertisements more than the American advertisements while the high acculturated respondents preferred American advertisements more than the Indian advertisements.

Lee (1993) found similar results in a study measuring the correlation between the level of acculturation and consumer attitudes toward advertising-related variables. Kara (1996) reported that Latinos exhibiting a high level of acculturation are younger and have consumer characteristics resembling those of the Anglo population. However, Latinos exhibiting a lower level of acculturation tend to belong to the older generation and exhibit different behavior patterns than those of high acculturated Latinos and Anglos. These studies validate the consideration of acculturation outcomes when developing marketing programs targeting minority communities.


A humanistic inquiry was conducted using in-depth interviews of seven Latino consumers to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and consumer acculturation. This section describes the research process and is followed by a discussion of the findings.

Interview Method and Interviewee Characteristics

One of the researchers attended a Mexican religious/social celebration in northeastern Washington and requested participants for this study. The interview sample consisted of 6 females and one male ranging in age from 30 to 47 years of age. The age at time of immigration ranged from 16 to 35 years. They all live in an urban setting, are employed or currently looking for work, and have lived in the United States for 7 or more years. Six identified themselves as Mexicano(a)s and one as Latina. All immigrated from Mexico, six from urban centers and one from a rural village.

Six interviews were conducted in homes and one at the interviewee’s work place. Only one of the interviewees was fluent in English, requiring six of the interviews to be conducted in Spanish. The researcher observed the artifacts in the interviewees’ homes and office, made field notes and an audio recording of the interviews. The information was later reviewed to identify themes related to self-esteem and the consumers’ acculturation process.

The interviews began by first asking demographic information such as age at time of immigration, length of time in the US, self and family ethnic identification, employment status and English fluenc. The interviewees were then asked to describe the circumstances of their immigration, and if or how experiences after immigrating to the US impacted their self-esteem. The next category of questions dealt with their level of self-esteem while in Mexico, and how this might have affected them in the transition stages. This was followed by questions related to their current level of self-esteem and acculturation outcome choice. The final category of questions probed the importance and representativeness of products purchased in the US as well as changes in their shopping behavior. Interviewees were encouraged to relate their own experiences as well as their observations of family and close friends.


Both the situational and enduring characteristics of the stability dimension of self-esteem became apparent as the interviewees described their experiences in adapting to a new environment. The following sections show that even though self-esteem has often been thought of as situational (a dependent variable), the enduring nature of self-esteem may encourage future research to investigate it as an independent variable or a moderator influencing the transition stages, outcome choices and consumer behavior during the acculturation process.

Precontact Phase

Individuals enter the acculturation process with a pre-existing level of self esteem ranging anywhere from low to high. The individual’s self-esteem is developed while in the country of origin and can be associated with Berry’s precontact stage of the acculturation process.

Transition Phase

The transition phase includes the contact, conflict, and crisis stages of Berry’s acculturation process. Several of the interviewees indicated temporary lowering of self-esteem during the transition stages of their acculturation. Gloria (names have been changed to protect confidentiality) was working as an accountant in Mexico when she decided to immigrate with her family. Her educational degrees did not transfer. This, combined with her lack of English skills, forced her to work in a factory. She said, "I felt terrible about myself. I had never had to do work like that in my life. It was hard, there was grease and dirt everywhere and I had to wear an ugly uniform. I would come home tired, dirty, and discouraged, and I did not like the way I felt about myself."

Family relationships, interaction and responsibilities are significant and integral in Mexican life. Two of the interviewees described a lowering in their feeling of self worth when they were forced to leave family members behind when they came to the US. Raul said that leaving his wife and two young children behind while he looked for work made him feel like he was not living up to his role as a father. He was not home to be a role model for his children or a husband to his wife. He felt bad that his wife had to carry a heavy load of being both father and mother in his absence, and bear the burden of many assuming that she was an abandoned wife. It took him a year to find work, settle, send money home for their support, and save enough money to bring them to the US.

Rosa was a single mother who could no longer support her two small boys while living in Mexico. She decided to leave the boys with her mother while seeking work in the US. She said, "I felt like a bad mother, like I was deserting my boys. But I couldn’t stand to see them starving. I mean, now they didn’t have a mother or a father. What would they think of me?" Rosa worked as a nanny caring for children of an Anglo family. In time, these children began to call her mom, yet she was not able to be a mother to her own children. It was thee years before she was able to bring her boys to the US. In Mexico, Rosa was an integral part of her extended family. She was valued and constantly surrounded by family members who provided companionship and moral support. She began to doubt her self worth when she was separated from her family’s support system and felt isolated as an employee in another household.

All the interviewees confirmed that not being able to communicate in English negatively impacted their self-esteem. Their inability to speak English forced them to depend on others to deal with daily occurrences. This forced dependency made them feel inadequate in caring for themselves. Rosa and Veronica both described their feeling of shame in having to be accompanied by an acquaintance when taking care of private matters such as doctor visits and finances. Maria and Lupita described their frustration with product returns. Maria said, "In Mexico or Los Angeles I could take care of everything. Here, I have to take my husband with me just to return a blouse that doesn’t fit."

The above illustrations show that regardless of whether the pre-existing level of self-esteem was high or low, individuals face temporary or permanent decreasing levels as they progress through the transition phase. Individuals in the transition phase exhibit many factors which Rosenberg (1965) associated with anxiety and lowered self-esteem. These include the instability of self-image, the presenting self (presenting a false front or face to the world), vulnerability (evidence of inadequacy, incompetence, or worthlessness), and feelings of isolation. Berry (1990) called the growing anxiety during this phase acculturative stress.

The above illustrations and discussion emphasize the situational self-esteem where the acculturation process alters either temporarily or permanently the consumer’s self-esteem. It is hoped that future studies with a larger sample size will be able to determine if the enduring nature of the pre-existing self-esteem actually determines how much the situational self-esteem fluctuates during the transition stages.

Several descriptions in the interviews brought to light a related aspect of the enduring nature of pre-existing level of self-esteem in the transition stages. The following comments show how the level of self-esteem prior to entering the new country influenced their progress through the transition stages. Gloria expressed it best. She said, "When I lived in Mexico, I liked my self. I was happy with who I was. I was proud of what I had accomplished. When I came to the US and had to work in that factory, I hated how I felt. But after a while I remembered what I had accomplished back home by studying and making a career. I decided that if I could do it there, I could make it here too." She went on to describe how she began to watch TV in English and read all the books she could. She said, "I read with a book in one hand and a dictionary in the other hand, but I made myself read in English. I read everything I could get, cook books, magazines, everything so I could learn how to live here. I was determined to learn fast so I could get an office job."

Gloria then went on to describe a friend who moved to the US at the same time she did. The friend was described as having a low self-esteem in Mexico. She says that her friend was afraid to go out and "do things" in the US, and always had to wait for someone to go with her or do it for her. Gloria says this friend has lived in the US for over 20 years now and still has not really adjusted to living here. She stays at home most of the time. Rosa also blamed her low self-esteem in Mexico for her slowness to adapt in the US. She said that she felt inadequate as a mother in Mexico because she could not provide for her children, and she felt inadequate in caring for herself here in the states. This was reinforced by the Anglo family who did all of her shopping for her. She said she did not even go to a store in the US for over two years.

Maria, Lupita, and Juanita described themselves as having a high level of self-esteem in Mexico, and felt that thi feeling of self worth gave them the confidence to make needed adjustments in the US. Maria said, "I saw living in Los Angeles as a challenge. I learned how to ride the buses and I got a job my first day there. My cousin was scared when she got home and I wasn’t there. When I told her that I went to work she asked well, how will you get to work and back, you will get lost. I told her well, I got there today, and I got home didn’t I? Just because I just moved from Mexico doesn’t mean I have forgotten your phone number." These are just a few of the examples the interviewees gave which showed that their level of self-esteem had a direct influence on their progress through the transition stages.

Although no previous studies have examined how pre-existing levels of self-esteem influence the acculturation process, a clear theme emerged which indicates that it may be worthwhile to investigate this influence as represented in the following proposition:

P1: Pre-existing level of self-esteem positively impacts the individual’s progress through the transition stages.

Future studies may investigate if a high level of entering self-esteem results in quicker and increased contact between the individual and the new culture. The interviews indicate that it may give the person the confidence to initiate contact with the new culture and welcome a wider exposure. High self-esteem may decrease the time spent in each of the stages before reaching an outcome. It might also reduce the amount of acculturative stress experienced in each stage, making the crisis stage less salient. Low self-esteem may encourage the person to remain separate as much as possible, and increase the acculturative stress associated with each stage. Movement from stage to stage could possibly be slower and the crisis stage a more traumatic experience.

Adaptation Stage

Phinney, Chavira, and Williamson (1992) conducted a study which determined that Berry’s acculturation outcomes had associated levels of self-esteem. Phinney, et al. found that maintenance or the integration outcome had the highest associated level of self-esteem. This was followed by the segregation or separation outcome which exhibited a split level of self-esteem. Individuals in the separation outcome were found to benefit from self-protecting properties of group membership (resulting in higher self-esteem), but sometimes experienced decreased self-esteem when exposed to between group contact.

The interviews indicated that the assimilation outcome may be negatively correlated with self-esteem. Individuals in the assimilation outcome were found to have compromised their nondominant group membership and may have a false sense of self leading to decreasing self-esteem. Phinney et al. pointed out that the correlation of this outcome to self-esteem depends on the individual’s salience of cultural affiliation and the acculturating individual’s ability to become fully assimilated.

While Phinney et al.’s study showed a strong correlation between acculturation outcome and self-esteem, the interviews indicated that an individual’s pre-existing level of self-esteem may have an impact on the chosen outcome alternative. All but one of the interviewees indicated a high level of self-esteem while in Mexico, and all have chosen maintenance/integration or segregation/ separation outcomes. Gloria married an Anglo and consciously tries to integrate both cultures into their home. She says she wants her kids to know that they are both American and Mexican and not to have to choose between the two, but to be proud of both. Lupita wants her little boy to think of himself as a Mexican American even though both parents are from Mexico. Maria wants her son to identify as a Chicano. Veronica, Juanita, and Rosa want their children to think of themselves as Mexicanos.

All of the interviewees except for Rosa felt that their lifestyles fit with the maintenance/integration outcome. The interviewer noted that with the exception of Gloria, the other five who saw themselves in this category live what would seem to many people to be very segregated lives. The majority of their friends speak only Spanish, they prepare mostly Mexican foods, attend Spanish speaking religious and social events, watch Spanish TV, listen to Mexican CD’s and tapes, and the read mostly Spanish reading material. Yet, except for occasional language difficulties they function well in mainstream society.

Rosa’s (who described a lower self-esteem in Mexico than the other interviewees) home has the most "distinctly Mexican" feel of all the homes visited. She has purposely tried to recreate much of the living arrangements with which she was accustomed to in Oaxaca, Mexico. She also said in her interview that she shies away from Anglo people who do not speak Spanish, and discourages her husband from including them in their social circle.

None of the interviewees were well enough acquainted with individuals who represent the assimilation outcome to offer an opinion on these individuals’ self-esteem before coming to the US. Several expressed though, that they could not imagine how a person with high self-esteem could set aside their 'home country’. They said that their Mexican heritage was what made them special and gave them value. To set that aside would be setting aside the most important part of themselves. Veronica said that, "to not keep your "Mexicaness" with you must mean that you did not like yourself when you were living in Mexico and that is why you don’t want others to know."

The above comments indicate that an individual’s level of self-esteem is fairly enduring and it may be worthwhile to investigate if it has a direct impact on outcomes:

P2: Acculturation outcome correlates with the pre-existing level of self-esteem.

It is proposed that future studies will find that individuals with a high or low level of self-esteem may experience varying levels of self-esteem during the acculturation process but will exhibit an outcome correlated to their original level of self-esteem. A pre-existing high level of self-esteem will result in integration or separation outcomes, medium levels in separation or assimilation, and pre-existing low levels of self-esteem will result in assimilation or marginalization outcomes.

Influence of Self-Esteem on Consumer Behavior

The final questions of the interviews were directed toward changes in consumption behavior during the acculturation process. The interviewees had several comments that indicated that self-esteem impacts shopping habits in the "new country." Gloria said that, "I have friends that do not feel comfortable shopping in stores like Nordstrom because they think that those are just for rich Anglo people. But, I don’t think that. I think if I have the money I can shop there too. I am as good as they are." Veronica said that she prefers to shop at upscale stores and doesn’t like to go to K-Mart because the products there are cheap and will not last. She also said that her daughter is embarrassed to be seen in K-Mart and refuses to go there. Juanita says she also likes to shop in upscale stores but doesn’t mind buying sale items at other stores whenever possible. Lupita and Maria are both very price conscious and are not concerned with brand or store image.

All but Rosa and Raul expressed excitement at buying American products when they came to the US. Selection and quality were seen as being better than similar products in Mexico. They remember trying out many different brands asthey shopped more and more in the States, and then settling on favorites which they buy routinely. When asked if items purchased in Mexico have more value or significance than those purchased in the US, Veronica and Juanita said no, that what mattered most was the circumstances surrounding the purchase and how much the item appealed to them. Veronica plans to take everything she has bought in the US with her when she retires in Mexico. Juanita says she prefers to leave everything here in a small house so she can come back to visit often and set up another house in Mexico in which to retire. Juanita, Rosa, Gloria, and Veronicas’ families have all purchased satellite dishes so they can watch TV in Spanish. They did this so that they could keep up with what is going on in Mexico and to enjoy Spanish language entertainment.

Gloria’s friend and Rosa are most indicative of the low self-esteem influence on consumer behavior. Gloria says that her friend who has not adapted to life in the US and stays home most of the time has surrounded herself with all Anglo-American products, and refuses to display any objects representing her Mexican heritage. Rosa on the other hand, has enhanced her self-esteem by maintaining a Mexican lifestyle in a US northwestern town. She and her husband drive to towns about two hours away at least once a month to shop in Mexican stores. She expressed a great frustration in trying to buy hygiene products and canned foods when she was no longer living as a nanny. She said that she could not figure out how to use them and was never sure if she was buying the right hygiene product for its intended use.

Rosa also described how she became very self conscious of different uses of items in the US. She said that one day shortly after she remarried, she wanted to prepare a special surprise meal for her husband’s birthday. She took her two boys and walked to the nearby grocery store. She had a hard time choosing meat because in Mexico she was used to preparing meat that had been freshly butchered. The meat in the store all looked "old" to her. She finally made her purchases and the clerk placed them in plastic grocery bags. As she exited the store she realized that she had purchased too much to carry and still hold the boys’ hands on the busy highway. She quickly tied all the bags together, secured them with the shawl she was wearing, balanced the bundle on her head, grabbed her boys’ hands and began walking home. It wasn’t long before she realized that people passing by were staring and pointing at her. At first, she could not figure out what was wrong, then one of her little boys said Mom, people don’t carry things on their heads here, take it down.

Each of the interviewees returns one or more times to Mexico each year. They take gifts to friends and relatives in Mexico and bring back items which are costly or not available in the northwest. Overall though, they are very contented with purchases made in the US.

Mehta and Belk (1991) studied the favorite possessions of Indian immigrants to the US and found that possessions play an important role in the reconstruction of immigrant identity. Noble and Walker (1997) explained this phenomenon by combining Belks’ (1988) concept of the extended self with van Gennep’s (1960) framework of liminal transitions. They used this to explain how consumers in major life transitions appear to rely on possessions that symbolize the past, as well as those that represent the new life to facilitate passage through the liminal state. Rosa and Gloria’s friend exemplify these alternatives.

It appears then that individuals moving through the acculturation process have a need to enhance or protect their self-esteem and this is reflected in their purchase, use and disposal of goods and services:

P3: An individual’s self-esteem influences the purchase, use and disposal of goods and services during the acculturation process.

Future studies may find that a high level of self-steem will encourage the individual to try many products from the new culture in the contact stage. The individual’s excitement at experiencing a new world will lead him or her to experiment with as many goods and services in the new culture as possible. These products may be viewed as introductory in purpose, and not necessarily integrative in the daily life.

It may also be true that a person with high self-esteem will begin to experience dissatisfaction with many of the new products in the conflict stage and begin to feel a sense of loss for products from the home country. The individual will begin to seek out products from home at this stage to bring a sense of comfort and perhaps to share the old culture with new friends. The crisis stage will find a person with high self-esteem seeking products which have strong memories of home, yet fit productively into the new lifestyle.

Contrarily, some individuals with low self-esteem may find themselves seeking products in the contact stage which will allow them to maintain their pre-existing consumer habits. This would lead them to shopping in ethnic stores or purchasing global products with which they were familiar before moving to another country. Frustration would grow in the conflict stage as resources brought into the new country are used up and it becomes increasingly difficult to find familiar replacements. These individuals would also experience increasing distress as they notice that local inhabitants are not tolerant of the different ways acculturating people use or display some products. The crisis stage would find individuals with low self-esteem going to opposite extremes of purchasing and integrating only products from the new culture to rejecting both cultures and living a marginal existence without pleasure from either culture.


The interviews provided many examples which indicate that the three propositions merit further investigation. First, the interviews showed that it would be worthwhile to conduct quantitative research to statistically test the propositions with a larger sample. The interviews showed enough variation in the responses to indicate that determining definitive relationships will require more exact measurements of a larger sample. Longitudinal studies would be most helpful in measuring self-esteem before individuals immigrate with periodic testing during the transition stages and again after an outcome has been established. Acculturation tests would also be helpful in determining the acculturation outcome for a larger number of people. Specifically, the studies should look at self-esteem as the independent variable to see what effect it has on the acculturation process, outcomes and resulting consumer behavior. It would be interesting to conduct these studies among immigrants from various cultures to find if the results are similar or if they are unique to the immigrant Latino consumers.


This exploratory study offered three propositions regarding the relationship between self-esteem and acculturation among Latino consumers. The Latino market in the US is both substantial and growing. Reaching this market effectively is of importance to many marketers. In an effort to help marketers gain a better understanding of immigrating Latino consumer behavior, self-esteem was proposed as an independent variable with enduring influences on the acculturation process. In-depth interviews with the Latino consumers indicated that the propositions are worthy of further investigation.


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Rachel Maldonado, Washington State University
Patriya Tansuha, Washington State University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25 | 1998

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