Christy Haubegger, a CAA brand agent, described the findings from 1,000 phone interviews with 14-to-24-year-olds in eight cities at an Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies conference last month.
Half of respondents (52%) said they speak English and Spanish equally well, 28% said they speak English better, and 12% said they speak only English. Age makes a difference; 38% of young adults but 49% of teens said they speak only English with their friends.
Young Latinos simply change their definition of what makes them Hispanic, Ms. Haubegger said. "They may say `I don't speak Spanish, but that doesn't make me less Hispanic."'
Instead, they cite "values, values, values," she said. They are also more likely to identify themselves as Hispanic, a reflection of a pan-Hispanic identity, than by parents' country of origin.
Ms. Haubegger said it is a source of pride to the young Hispanics surveyed that mainstream culture borrows from their Latin culture now. "They think [MTV show] `Pimp My Ride' is a homage to Latin culture," she said.
They are also deeply optimistic. "They know they're going to do better than their parents," she said. They are often the first member of their family to vote, or to finish school, and bear the responsibility of being the go-to kid who translates for older family members.