Latinos are the fastest growing racial-ethnic minority group in the United States, and along with other communities of color, they continue to be disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards. While research has repeatedly found that Latinos report greater environmental concern, perceptions of risk, and support for environmental policy than Whites, few studies have examined the mechanisms that drive Latino environmentalism. This research expands our understanding of Latino environmentalism by examining how family values (i.e. familism), which play a central role in Latino culture, relate to environmental risk perceptions and engagement among Latinos. This project not only advances our scientific knowledge of how marginalized racial-ethnic groups in the U.S. perceive and respond to environmental problems, but it also informs the education and outreach efforts of environmental organizations that aim to reduce the heightened risks that Latinos and other communities or color face as a result of environmental problems.

Using a mixed methods approach, the scholars develop and empirically test a theoretical framework for how Latino familism values are related to Latino environmentalism. First, the research uses a grounded theory approach to conduct interviews with self-identified Latinos living in select cities and regions of the U.S. with large Latino populations. Participants are asked open-ended questions about a range of topics including 1) the environmental issues/problems that concern them, 2) ways to address these environmental problems, 3) the similarity of the views and actions of participants and their family members, and 4) additional aspects of participants? families, communities, and relationships. Through an iterative process of interviewing, coding, and memo-writing, the research develops a theoretical framework that explains how Latino familism values relate to Latino environmentalism. These interview findings then inform the design of a larger experimental survey that examines the effects of familism and other values on the environmental outcomes of Latinos and Non-Latinos living in the U.S. Together, these studies provide crucial insights for future research and practice by improving our understanding of what elements of familism are related to various environmental outcomes, how the relationship between familism and environmentalism may change across different Latino populations, and how to improve environmental outreach and education within Latino communities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Robert O'Connor
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Cornell University
United States
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