STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. We're embarking this week on stories about Latino Americans. They're a growing part of the U.S. population with evermore influence on politics, culture, and more and we will be using a new survey of Latinos in America to guide our storytelling. It was conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

And to give us just a taste of what we found - because this was a very ambitious poll and as I said, we're going to be using it throughout the week - is Gene Demby. He's the lead blogger for NPR's Code Switch team. Good morning.

GENE DEMBY, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Good morning. So first off, just who did you talk to in the poll? When I say ambitious, what am I saying?

DEMBY: So this is a really, really big poll sample size. There are about 1,500 people which is a sample size big enough to let us actually compare the answers from different populations. So there were Cuban-Americans, there were Mexican-Americans, Dominican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and there were Central Americans and South Americans in the poll sample.

MONTAGNE: All right. So just a couple of samples of what sorts of things you were asking them.

DEMBY: They were broad lifestyle questions about religious affiliation, about income, about quality of life, about the issues that were of most concern to them, about homeownership. We just wanted to get kind of a sense of what people felt about their lives.

MONTAGNE: Well, so give us the big takeaway of how people saw themselves.

DEMBY: You're probably going to hear a lot about the Latino voter and the Latino consumer, but one of the things this poll really underscored was just how many distinctions we tend to flatten when we use terms like that. These are groups who live in different parts of the country, who have different countries of origin, who have different religious affiliations and different ethnic heritages.

And so people had different preferences as to whether they identified by their country of origin or as Hispanic or Latino.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. So even what you call yourself might be different, depending on who you are within that community. So give us a couple of examples of the distinctions that these different Latino-Hispanic groups were making between themselves.

DEMBY: Right. So let's look at the Mexican-American population. They are by far the biggest group in our sample size, which is reflective of the reality of American life. They're the biggest Latino group in the country. They're nearly three times as likely as people of Central American or South American or Dominican heritage to say that they were born in the U.S.

Even though Mexican-Americans are the largest immigrant group in the country, when it came to something like the American Dream, right, nearly a third of our Mexican-American respondents said that they'd already achieved it. And a solid majority of Mexicans said they had not achieved it, but they would eventually. They were also more likely to say that their personal finances were in good or excellent shape.

More so than, for example, Cuban Americans who are, otherwise, ahead on a bunch of issues. They were more likely to own their own homes, they were more likely to have earned a college degree or more.

MONTAGNE: But they were worried about their finances a little bit.

DEMBY: Right. Nearly half of Cuban-Americans said that their finances were in poor shape. And six in 10 employed Cubans said they were concerned that either they or someone in their family will be out of work in the next 12 months.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. So those are the sorts of distinctions that will come out in the stories we're going to be hearing this week.

DEMBY: Right. There were also some distinctions between people who described themselves as immigrants and people who were native born. Immigrants were significantly more likely to say that they felt that their children would have better educational and economic opportunities than they had themselves.

MONTAGNE: Gene Demby is from Code Switch, our team that covers race, ethnicity, and culture. Gene, thanks very much.

DEMBY: Thanks for having me, Renee.

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