Nallely Mejia

The Social and Cultural Tensions in Mexican Immigrant Families’ Acquisition, Use, and Understandings of Wealth and Household Finances

Although Latinos are the largest racial minority group in the United States, Latino families account for only 8 percent of wealth (Macias 2018). Wealth serves as a source of household stability, status, children’s well-being, personal fulfillment and more (Sherraden 1991). In Latino families, changes in wealth may be tied to familial and cultural obligations (Vallejo 2012). Therefore, wealth may also matter for reasons beyond those that are financial in nature; wealth and finances can carry cultural, social, and emotional meanings and expectations (Zelizer 1997). However, this particular framework has not yet been applied to Latinos, specifically Mexican immigrant families. This work brings together the literature on wealth inequality, economic incorporation, and immigration. Using a generational comparison, I will examine how Mexican immigrants and their adult children understand and navigate household finances and wealth in San Joaquin County. Drawing on in-depth interviews with parent-adult child pairs, I will argue that Mexican immigrants and their families face unique social and cultural tensions, related to immigrant generation, in their acquisition, use, and maintenance of finances and wealth in the U.S and abroad.