Nine in Ten Latin American Immigrants in the U.S. Believe that the American Dream is Achievable

Two Thirds Would Remain in the U.S. if They Could do it all Over Again

The author(s)

  • Negar Ballard Senior Account Manager, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC — According to a recent online study conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Remitly, nine in ten U.S. Latin American immigrants (defined as Latin American adults born outside of the U.S.) believe that the American Dream - the belief that everyone in the U.S. has the chance to be successful and happy if they work hard – is achievable (90%). Belief in the American dream is especially strong among those with children living at home (94% vs. 84% of those with no kids), those with a college degree (94% vs. 86% with no degree), and married adults (94% vs. 82% of those who are not married). Another two thirds say they would choose to remain in the U.S. if they could do it all again (67%) – versus 10% who would instead stay in their country of origin and 13% who would opt to live in another country.

  • Among those who believe in the American dream, almost half feel that better access to basic standards of living (49% rated 1,2) and access to better education (47%) are top ranked as the most attainable opportunities for them personally. Just under two in five say that physical safety (38%) and better access to jobs (35%) are among the most achievable for them in the U.S., while three in ten say the same thing of free speech (31%).
  • On the contrary, among the few who do not believe the American dream is achievable, most say they feel this way because it’s too hard to get ahead (59%, rated 1,2). Another two in five do not believe in the American dream because they would rather be close to their family (43%), they are having troubles adjusting (43%), or they feel a lack of physical safety (36%). One in five do not see the American dream as achievable because they don’t trust the U.S. (19%).

As immigrants in the U.S., respondents are most likely to mention cultural barriers (language, education, etc.) as the greatest challenge facing them today (31%). One in four say that the biggest challenge they face involves regulation (24%, green card, deportation, Visas, etc.), while not quite one in ten say their biggest challenges revolve instead around access to services (16%, medical, transportation, etc.) or finding/securing work (15%). Housing is not as likely to be a top concern for U.S. immigrants, though 7% nevertheless mention this as being their biggest obstacle.

Despite these challenges, a majority say that they would recommend moving to the U.S. to a friend, family member, or colleague (56%, rated 8-10), including just over one in five who say that they would be extremely likely to recommend living in the U.S. to others (22%, rated 10). Six in ten (60%) would continue to encourage family from their home-country to relocate to the U.S. today despite the current political climate – especially men (69%), the more affluent (71%), those with children living at home (72%), those with a college degree (69%), and those who are married (68%).

  • Among the 40% who would not encourage their family to relocate given the current political climate, a majority say this is because the immigration process is hard to navigate (59%) and/or because of racism (53%). Cost of living (33%) and lack of job opportunities (26%) are brought up by at least a quarter, while one in five would not encourage their family to relocate because they feel it’s too hard to be away from their home country (20%).

Attitudes and Opinions towards Banking in the U.S.

Latin American Immigrants in the U.S. are most likely to associate money with stability/security (50%, confidence in knowing you have and can have the resources you need) – and this is especially true for women (56% vs. 44% of men), older adults (64% of those age 55+ vs. 47% of those age 18-34), the less affluent (58% vs. 42% of those earning at least $50,000 annually), and those with no children living at home (58% vs. 43% of those with children). For another one in ten (each), money is instead associated with opportunity (13%, possibility to do something), happiness (13%, creating satisfaction with a sense of achievement), family (12%, bringing family, friends, community together), or health (11%, peace of mind and less stress).

A sizeable proportion of immigrants in the U.S. say that they turn to their family/friends for financial advice (38%) – though nearly as many (37%) go to their financial institution directly. One in four (23%) turn to news publications for financial advice and only a few (3%) bring up some other source. However, three in ten say that they do not get financial advice from anyone/anywhere (29%).

  • Women (37% vs. 22% of men), adults over the age of 55 (49% vs. 19% of those ages 18-34), the less affluent (43% vs. 17% of those earning at least $50,000 annually), those with no children living at home (42% vs. 18% of those with children), and the less educated (40% vs. 16% of those with a college degree) are especially likely to say that they don't get financial advice from anyone/anywhere.

Just over six in ten (62%) say that they would trust mobile technology to handle all of their finances – and 70% currently use mobile banking/financial technology solutions. Among those who are currently using mobile banking/financial technology solutions, 93% say that these are meeting their financial needs.

  • Those most likely to trust mobile technology to handle their finances include adults under the age of 35 (73% vs. 42% of those age 55+), the more affluent (75% vs. 48% of those in low income households), those with children living at home (75% vs. 48%), those with a college degree (76% vs. 52% of those with no degree), and those from Venezuela (80%). Adults from these demographics groups are also significantly more likely to be currently using mobile banking/financial technologies, this time along with men (78% vs. 62% of women).

Among the 38% who would not trust mobile technology to handle their finances, most say this is because they are worried about their data/privacy (71%). Another six in ten (59%) simply prefer traditional banks and banking methods (tellers, checks, cash). One in ten would not trust mobile technology to handle their finances because they do not feel it provides the type of services they need/use (11%), while only 2% wouldn’t use these as they feel mobile technology does not support the language/culture they are most comfortable with.

Most also say that traditional financial institutions (e.g., physical banks and banking methods) are meeting their financial needs (84%), though one in ten say their needs are not being met (10%) and another 6% report that they do not use traditional banking services. Among the few who say that traditional financial institutions are not meeting their needs, fees/penalties (31%) and lack of trust (25%) are the most common reasons mentioned for feeling this way, while another one in five say that their traditional financial institution lacks options for the type of services they need/use (19%). Not having easy access to a traditional financial institution is brought up by nearly one in five (16%), while one in ten (8%) feel that traditional financial institutions lack support for the language they are most comfortable with.

Sample Characteristics

One third of immigrants surveyed say that they relocated to the United States alone (33%), while 67% relocated with family. Those who moved to the U.S. with family are most likely to have come with their parents (57%), and more than a third relocated with their spouse (37%) and/or children (37%). Fewer relocated to the United States with extended family (13%) while 7% bring up some other mention.

Most immigrants surveyed report relocating to the U.S. for economic reasons (58%) such as pursuing the American dream/their dream (better quality of life, find work, make more money, pursue an education, etc.). Younger adults (64% of those age 18-34), those with children living at home (67%), and those born in Mexico (66%) or Puerto Rico (63%) are especially likely to have relocated to the U.S. for economic reasons. For one in five, the decision to relocate was social (19%, to be close to family/friends) while fewer relocated for political reasons (15%, escaping a dangerous situation, political turmoil or war, as a refugee). One in ten say that they decided to move to the United State for some other reason (9%).

About the Study

These are the findings from an Ipsos poll conducted June 1 – June 5, 2018 on behalf of Remitly. For the survey, a sample of 501 adults ages 18 and over from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online, in English or in Spanish. To qualify for the survey, respondents had to report being born in a country other than the United States. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of ±5.0 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, region, race/ethnicity and income.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online nonprobability sampling polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=501, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=6.5).

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Negar Ballard
Senior Account Manager, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 312 292-8366

Marie-Pierre Lemay
Senior Account Manager, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 613 793-1622

The author(s)

  • Negar Ballard Senior Account Manager, US, Public Affairs