Banking on the American Dream: A Quantitative Study of Determinants of Latino Immigrants’ Bank Account Use in Houston, Texas, United States of America



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For most people in the United States, the financial system constrains financial opportunities through access to the credit system (Levine, 2005). The credit system allows individuals--who do not have enough capital--to purchase homes, transportation, and obtain higher education, which are activities necessary for economic development (Allen et al., 2012). Owning a bank account is an important first step in engagement with the financial industry. However, percentages of unbanked Latino immigrants in the United States are high and range between 37% (Rhine & Green, 2006) and 44% (Perry, 2008). Two frameworks, the financial capability model and the Focus Theory of Normative Conduct (Cialdini et al., 1990), were used to guide this exploratory study. The Focus Theory of Normative Conduct subdivides social influence into descriptive norms, or typical patterns of behaviors, and injunctive norms, or moral rules of conduct. Data was collected at Houston area agencies and online. Questionnaires assessed financial knowledge, attitudes towards banks, and descriptive and injunctive influence in a sample of 130 Latino immigrants. Half of the sample was comprised of undocumented immigrants, and 28.5% did not own bank accounts. The data was analyzed using logistic regression, and social network analysis variables were included in the logistic regression. Backward stepwise logistic regression was conducted to determine the model with the best fit. Results revealed that attitudes towards banks, financial knowledge, and descriptive influence were predictive of bank account ownership. Social networks may be used to engage first-generation Latino immigrants to the financial mainstream.



Bank account ownership, Financial system, First generation, Latino immigrants, Focus Theory of Normative Conduct, Financial capability, Social networks