The Effects of Hispanic Ethnic Identification on Teenager Influence in Purchase Decisions:
An Exploratory Study
by Salil Talpade, Medha Talpade, and Suresh Prabhu
Dr. Salil Talpade firstname.lastname@example.org is an Associate Professor, Department of Marketing and Real Estate, State University of West Georgia. Medha Talpade is with the Department of Psychology, Georgia State University. Suresh Prabhu is an Assistant Professor, Clark Atlanta University.
In recent years, the increase in the amount of teenager influence in family decision making has been documented by several market research agencies . [Teenage Research Unlimited in Marketing News, 1987 and Lester Rand Inc. in Sellers 1989] Marketers, too, are designing promotional campaigns and products aimed at teenagers (e.g., Polaroid has developed the `Cool Cam' with teenagers in mind, and Seven-up and Heinz have specific commercials aimed at teenagers).
Several academic studies have also been published that focus on teenager influence on products bought for themselves as well as on family purchases. [Belch, Belch and Ceresino 1985; Foxman, Tanshuhaj, and Ekstrom 1989a and 1989b; Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade 1993; Beatty and Talpade 1994; and Talpade and Talpade 1995]
Simultaneously, the U.S. Hispanic population has been increasing rapidly in recent years. This increase is expected to continue into the future, with a 40% increase (from 21.4 million to 29.7 million) expected from 1990-2000. By 2010, the nation's Hispanics will roughly equal its African-Americans. [Exter 1991]
The disposable income of U.S. Hispanics was about $200 billion in 1992, which represents an increase of 138 percent since 1980. [Business Week 1992] Marketers have begun to recognize the importance of this emerging segment and have directed media campaigns and developed products targeted at Hispanics (e.g., Campbell soup is introducing a Mexican chilli-pepper soup, and Coke, Pepsi, McDonald etc. have developed specific commercials aimed at Hispanics).
Academic research on Hispanic household decision making has focused mainly on husband-wife roles in the decision process and on a cross-cultural comparison of such roles. [Huszagh and Murphy 1982; Imperia, O'Guinn, and MacAdams 1985; O'Guinn, Imperia, and MacAdams 1987; and Webster 1994] None of these studies have explored the influence of Hispanic children.
This paper seeks to extend and integrate this stream of research with the research on teenager influence in purchase decisions in order to focus on the influence of Hispanic teenagers on purchase decisions. Measurement and methodological issues are discussed and hypotheses are developed based on the results of previous studies and the extent of Hispanic ethnic identification. The data analyzed in this paper was collected in a pilot study sample of 50 Hispanic teenagers and their mothers.
A majority of the studies in the area of teenager influence on decision making have examined the relative influence of husbands, wives, and children on several product categories in terms of decision stages and subdecisions. [Berey and Pollay 1968; Szybillo and Sosanie 1977; Atkin 1978; Nelson 1979; Filiatraut and Ritchie 1980; and Roberts, Wortzel and Berkeley 1981] A few recent studies have focused more on teenagers: Belch, Belch, and Ceresino 1985; Foxman, Tansuhaj, and Ekstrom 1989a and 1989b, and on resolving some of the conceptual and methodological problems present in this area of research: Beatty and Talpade 1994; Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade 1993a and 1993b; and Talpade and Talpade 1995.
The conclusions reached by studies to date indicate that children's influence varies by the type of purchase decision, as well as by decision stages and subdecisions. Children have a higher influence on purchase decisions affecting them, but their influence is lower on issues involving how much to spend, where to buy, and at the final decision stage. [Szybillo and Sosanie 1977; Nelson 1979; Belch, Belch, and Ceresino 1985; Beatty and Talpade 1994] Their influence on major purchase decisions increases with age. [Szybillo and Sosanie 1977; Filiatraut and Ritchie 1980; Jenkins 1979; and Darley and Lim 1986] and with perceived product importance. [Beatty and Talpade 1994] Older teenagers, teenagers who are employed long hours outside the house, and teenagers in single- parent households have higher levels of influence on grocery trips. [Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade 1993] Children's perceptions of their influence usually do not match their parents' perceptions of their influence, with children seeing their role as more important than parents do. [Belch, Belch, and Ceresino 1985; Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade 1993; Beatty and Talpade 1994]
In terms of marital roles in decision making in Hispanic households and a cross-cultural comparison of these roles, studies have shown that Hispanic families tend to have a more traditional role orientation. Imperia, O'Guinn, and MacAdams (1985) found that Hispanic families tend to be more husband dominant in decisions regarding major purchases, while Anglo-American families tend to be more joint decision oriented. Huszagh and Murphy (1982) found a negative relationship between income and the influence of the husband, while O'Guinn, Imperia, and MacAdams (1987) found that Hispanic wives' perceptions of equality in decision making related positively to acculturalization. Webster (1994) studied this subject from the point of view of ethnic identification and found significant differences among households with strong Hispanic ethnic identification in most of the decision stages for a variety of product categories. A significant positive relationship was also revealed between ethnic identification and husband dominance in decision making.
Hispanic households in the U.S. have different levels of acculturalization depending on their length of stay in the U.S., their education levels, social class, income, and the geographic area they live in. Since acculturalization is positively related to similarities in consumer behavior with the dominant Anglo-American culture, it is very difficult to differentiate and measure consumer behavior aspects of the Hispanic subculture based only on demographic variables. Researchers such as Webster (1994) have, therefore, found that the most appropriate measure to use is that of ethnic identification.
Ethnic identity is related to the extent to which an individual relates to the ethnic subgroup, including a sense of common customs, language, religion, values, morality, and etiquette. Although several objective and subjective measures have been used in the literature, two of these measures, language spoken at home, and Hirshman's (1981) self-identification measure, have been judged to be the most appropriate, given the nature of the Hispanic subculture. [Webster 1994]
In terms of the household decision making process, previous research has suffered from several conceptual and measurement problems. [Mangleburg 1989] Beatty and Talpade (1994) and Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade (1993b) attempted to resolve some of these problems by conceptualizing teenager influence as 'the extent to which he/she has engaged in various acts or activities which have contributed to each of the stages of the decision process', and by developing a multi-item measure of such influence. [Talpade and Talpade 1995]. This multi-item measure consists of a nine item scale which measures influence on two perceived decision stages: initiation and final decision.
This study extends this conceptualization of influence on purchase decisions and uses similar measures of influence on purchase decisions and ethnic identification in measuring the influence of Hispanic teenagers on purchase decisions. This extension also serves to make cross-cultural comparisons easier.
There is a general consensus in previous studies on marital roles in decision making among Hispanic families that the observed patterns of behavior can be related to a traditional sex-role orientation. The Hispanic subculture, in contrast to the dominant Anglo-American culture, adheres to a more traditional sex-role orientation, and it is particularly resistant to change. [Murillo 1971] Male/female relations are based on strongly-held beliefs in the superiority (biological, intellectual, psychological, and social) of the male. The female is socialized to be a mother and a wife and her social relationships and duties are confined to the home. [Gonzalez 1982]
A traditional sex-role orientation has been found to affect purchase decision making in two ways. First, it leads to more specialization of influence based on the kinds of products purchased: for example, the husband is the dominant influence on products such as insurance, automobiles, and television, whereas the wife has more influence on the purchase of products associated with the role of homemaker such as appliances, groceries, and cleaning products. [Bernhardt 1974; Davis and Rigaux 1974; Woodside and Motes 1979] Second, husbands are the dominant influence on the more important decisions (i.e., price and the final decision to buy), whereas wives have more influence on minor decisions like color and suggesting the purchase. [Hempel 1974; Woodside and Motes 1979] Both these aspects are in contrast to the Anglo-American culture, which has moved towards either joint or egalitarian roles in the decision making for most of these products and decision phases. [Woodside and Motes 1979; Park 1982]
In translating these patterns of behavior (role specialization and husband dominance in important purchases) in terms of teenager influence on purchase decision making, it would seem logical to assume that teenagers with higher levels of Hispanic ethnic identification might not have as much influence in the decision making process for the purchase of durable products bought for the household as would teenagers with lower levels of Hispanic ethnic identification. Therefore, this was our first hypothesis.
H1: Teenagers with high Hispanic ethnic identification will have lower levels of influence on the decision making process for durable items purchased for family use than will teenagers with low Hispanic ethnic identification.
Further, given the gender specific role specializations in households with a traditional role orientation, it would seem logical to assume that female teenagers who have higher levels of Hispanic ethnic identification are likely to have higher levels of influence on products associated with the female homemaker role such as groceries. In terms of a national sample of teenagers, Hauser (1987) reported that half of the 1,079 teenage girls he had surveyed said they did the grocery shopping for their family weekly, and Talpade, Beatty, and Talpade (1993a) also found this to be true for Anglo-American teenagers, especially in families with traditional role orientations. Therefore, this was our second hypothesis.
H2: Female teenagers with high Hispanic ethnic identification will have higher levels of influence on products associated with the female role (e.g., groceries), than female teenagers with low Hispanic ethnic identification.
Although most previous studies have found low levels of agreement between teenagers and their parents on the extent of teenager influence in the decision making process, Talpade and Beatty (1994) found a marginally significant relationship showing higher levels of agreement between mothers and daughters in families with traditional role orientations. The rationale was that a traditional role orientation is also more likely to result in a closer bond between same sex family members, especially mothers and daughters. It would, therefore, seem logical to assume that this closer bond will exist to a greater extent in families with higher Hispanic ethnic identification (and higher traditional orientations), and this might result in more agreement between the two on the extent of daughters' influence on decision making for both durable and non-durable products. Therefore, this was our third hypothesis.
H3: There will be greater agreement on the extent of female teenager influence on the purchase of both durable and non-durable products between mothers and daughters with high Hispanic ethnic identification than between mothers and daughters with low ethnic identification.
On the other hand, recent research has also provided some indication that teenagers from different cultures tend to be more similar than their parents when it comes to purchasing products for themselves.[Fortune 1993; Business Week 1994] The rationale here is that increased communications, common media preferences, the evolution of a global middle class, and global brands and marketing strategies have resulted in similarities in teenager lifestyles across different cultures. It seems logical to assume that this similarity is more likely to be manifested in terms of influence on durable products which the teenagers buy for themselves. Therefore, this was our fourth hypothesis.
H4: There will be no differences in the amount of influence that teenagers have on the purchase of durable products bought for themselves between teenagers with a high Hispanic ethnic identification and those with a low Hispanic ethnic identification.
The sample for this pilot study consisted of 50 Hispanic high school seniors and their mothers from the San Antonio area. Although the classification `Hispanic' includes individuals from three distinct regions: Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, this sample consisted only of Hispanics of Mexican origin. This sample. therefore, allowed us to focus on the dominant Hispanic group. (Over 60% of all U.S. Hispanics are of Mexican origin.), and to build on previous studies in this area which had also focused on this dominant group, such as. Gonzalez 1982, Webster (1994). The sample of teenagers were contacted through their school and answered the questionnaires while in school. Similar questionnaires asking about their influence were sent to their mothers.
Webster (1994), having found a high correlation between the extent to which Spanish was spoken at home and Hirshmans self identification measure, used the language spoken at home as a surrogate measure of ethnic identification. Using the same rationale, this study also used language spoken at home as the primary measure of Hispanic ethnic identification.
As mentioned previously, the amount of relative influence on durable items was measured based on the 9-item scale developed by Talpade and Talpade (1995). This scale measured relative contribution in terms of nine decision making activities (Table 1) on a 7-point response scale ranging from `I did not contribute at all' to `the entire contribution was mine' .
Respondents were first asked to check those products which were purchased in the past year from a list of products adopted from Beatty and Talpade (1994). They were then asked to indicate which of these products was purchased most recently and to answer the influence questions in terms of this most recently purchased product. The following products were included in the list: a T.V., a V.C.R., a stereo system/component, a telephone, an answering machine, and furniture. This list was developed by Beatty and Talpade (1994) based on previous studies and pilot studies with teenagers. Respondents were required to go through this procedure for two purchase decisions: a durable family purchase and a durable teenager purchase. The questionnaires sent to the mothers specified the exact products that their child had selected and asked about their child's influence on the purchase of these products.
Items in the Influence Scales
(1) Bringing up the idea to buy the product.
(2) Getting people to realize that this produce was needed.
(3) Realizing that the product would be useful to have.
(4) Getting others to start thinking about buying the product.
(1) Visiting the store(s) to look for different brands/models of the product.
(2) Examining different brands/models of the product at the store(s).
(3) Picking up the product from the store.
(4) Deciding on the brand/model that was finally purchased.
(5) Deciding on which store to actually buy the product from.
Influence on grocery items was measured in a manner similar to that used by Talpade, Beatty and Talpade (1993a). This scale measured influence on grocery purchases on the bases of responses to questions concerning who actually made the ten most recent trips to the grocery store. Response choices included: the teenager alone, the teenager along with some other family member(s), or some other family member(s). Responses to these items were weighted and then summed together to obtain estimates of influence on grocery trips.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The sample of teenagers was almost equally divided between males and females (48% and 52%), respectively. Thirty eight percent were classified as high in terms of the ethnic identification scale, while sixty two percent were classified as low.
H1: Teenagers with high Hispanic ethnic identification will have lower levels of influence on the decision making process for durable items purchased for family use than teenagers with low Hispanic ethnic identification.
T-tests were used to compare the differences in means between the two groups: high and low Hispanic ethnic identification, in terms of their influence on the purchase of durable items purchased for the family. The results indicated a significant difference (alpha less than or equal to .05 ) between the two groups in the amount of influence they had on the purchase of durable items purchased for the family at both stages of the decision process initiation and final decision.
These results, supporting the hypothesis, would seem to indicate that the traditional role specialization observed in couples with higher levels of Hispanic ethnic identification does extend to the teenagers, at least in terms of their influence on durable family purchases.
H2: Female teenagers with high Hispanic ethnic identification will have higher levels of influence on products associated with female role (e.g. groceries) than female teenagers with low Hispanic ethnic identification.
Here again t-tests were used to compare the differences between the two groups on mean levels of influence on grocery products. Results showed a significant difference (alpha less than or equal to .05 ) between the two groups on grocery purchases. This hypothesis was, therefore, supported by the data.
These results provide further support for the existence of a traditional sex role orientation in households with high Hispanic ethnic identification and the fact that it seems to extend to the teenagers. The effect here was stronger than in Anglo-American households with traditional orientations as reported in Talpade and Talpade.
H3: There will be greater agreement on the extent of female teenager influence on the purchase of both durable and non-durable products between mothers and daughters with high Hispanic ethnic identification than between mothers and daughters with low ethnic identification.
Paired t-tests were used to compare the differences in perceived influence between mothers and their daughters. Results showed no significant differences between the two groups on the amount of influence. In order to examine this issue further, similar paired t-tests were run between mothers and daughters with low Hispanic identification and mothers and sons with low Hispanic ethnic identification; and between mothers and daughters with high Hispanic identification and mothers and sons with high Hispanic ethnic identification. Results showed a significant difference (alpha less than or equal to .05) between the second t-test groups but only a marginal difference (alpha less than or equal to .10 ) between the first two groups.
The indication, therefore, was that the effect of traditional role orientation was more apparent between male vs. female teenagers in high Hispanic ethnic identification households than between female teenagers in low vs. high Hispanic ethnic households. Possibly the traditional role orientation was leading to lower levels of agreement between mothers and teenage sons in household with higher levels of Hispanic ethnic identification. This issue or effect, however, may be mediated by a number of other household factors and needs to be examined further with a larger sample of teenagers.
H4: There will be no differences in the amount of influence that teenagers have on the purchase of non-durable products bought for themselves between teenagers with a high Hispanic ethnic identification and those with a low Hispanic ethnic identification.
T-tests were also used to compare the differences in means between the two groups: high and low Hispanic ethnic identification, in terms of their influence on the purchase of durable items purchased for teenagers. The results indicated no differences between the two groups, at both stages of the decision process initiation and final decision.
These results, supporting the hypothesis, would seem to indicate that there are in fact similarities in teenager influence across cultures, especially for products were their involvement is higher.
Two recent trends have made it essential for marketers to be able to gain a better understanding of the Hispanic culture: the increase in the U.S. Hispanic population and N.A.F.T.A., which has resulted in a tremendous increase in the marketing activities of U.S. firms in Mexico. Furthermore, there is some evidence Zaichowsky to suggest that Hispanic households are more likely to make group decisions than Anglo-American households, although the patterns of influence may be different. Research on the influence of Hispanic household members on purchase decisions is, therefore, a priority for marketers.
This pilot study reported on in this paper provides at least an initial perspective into this issue as well as developing a methodology for future research in this issue. Although the results presented here are from a small exploratory sample of teenagers, they seem to indicate some very definite differences in teenager influence based on Hispanic ethnic identification. Teenagers with higher Hispanic ethnic identification were less likely to have an influence on durable items purchased for the family; females were more likely to have an influence on grocery purchases than males; and females were more likely than males to agree with their mothers on the amount influence they had. Also, as predicted, there were no differences in the influence on durable items purchased for themselves.
These results provide support for the existence of a traditional sex-role orientation in households with high Hispanic ethnic identification and the fact that it seems to extend to the teenagers. Future studies based on a larger sample could further explore these effects, as well as examine the effects of gender on teenager purchase influence. Additionally, a variety of different measures of ethnic identification might also serve to further clarify these relationships in future studies.
The findings in this exploratory study, if confirmed by a larger study, would have significant implications for product development and the promotion of products targeted at this segment of the market. For example, teenagers in the Hispanic portion of the market would be given lower emphasis than their Anglo-American counterparts in terms of the development and promotion of products targeted at the family. On the other hand, products and promotional programs targeted at teenagers themselves would require fewer adjustments.
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Picture credit: Don Mabry, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History, Mississippi State University.