Building Research Bridges in Mexico
By Edward T. Rincón, Ph.D., Associate Member
SMU Tower Center for Political Studies
Learning About U.S. Marketing Trends: While Mexico is often the subject of inquiry by U.S. scholars, you may be surprised to know that Mexicans are also interested in “los norte americanos.” Such was the purpose of a recent lecture delivered by Dr. Rincón to the faculty and students of the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM). The lecture, which was coordinated by faculty members Dr. Lenin Martel and Paul Valdes, addressed U.S. multicultural and Hispanic marketing trends – a topic that Dr. Rincón has studied over the past 35 years in his research practice and taught at area universities.
An Attentive Audience: The audience had many questions for Dr. Rincón and appeared captivated by the dramatic growth of the multicultural population in the U.S. The lecture focused on demographic trends, the acculturation process, indicators of economic power, the marketing process and the complexities of marketing to this segment, and the importance of segmentation research. Highlights of the Dallas/Fort Worth Latino Trendline Study were also discussed. At the conclusion of the lecture, Dr. Rincón was rewarded with a round of applause, a certificate of recognition, and a great lunch at local restaurant in Toluca.
Interest in Survey Methodology: The presentation at the university was followed by a workshop by Dr. Rincón at Parámetro – a local political opinion research firm (http://www.parametro.com.mx). The six-hour workshop focused on common problems and solutions in designing surveys for diverse audiences in the U.S. The problems discussed included issues related to sampling, questionnaire design and translation, data collection modes, and weighting of raw data.
During the workshop, it became evident that the research practices in the U.S. and Mexico varied in three important ways:
- In Mexico, the use of one universal language practically eliminated the complexities of designing surveys in multiple languages. By contrast, multiple languages are increasingly being used in many U.S. surveys in addition to English. Although survey companies in the U.S. do not consistently provide language options other than English, Dr. Rincón emphasized that multiple language options should always be provided in linguistically-diverse communities.
- In Mexico, most of the survey data collection is conducted in households via in-person interviews, a method that provides a more complete sampling frame for probability sampling and greatly reduces coverage bias. Listings of telephone numbers and email addresses are not readily available in Mexico and suffer from high coverage bias. In the U.S., survey researchers have easy access to complete listings of household addresses, landline and wireless telephones – allowing the collection of data by telephone, online, and mail methods. However, listings of telephones – whether landline or wireless – are also limited in their coverage of households, while online surveys are dependent on the use of panels that include volunteer participants who are compensated for completing surveys.
- Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, have greatly facilitated the collection of survey data in the U.S. However, concerns about the personal security of the field interviewers and potential theft discourage the use of these devices in Mexico. Consequently, much of the survey work in the field is recorded on paper questionnaires.
Although the visit was a learning experience for everyone, Dr. Rincón is no stranger to research in Mexico. In past years, for example, he conducted a market study of 1,200 Mexican consumers in Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City that involved household interviews. More recently, Dr. Rincón assisted a U.S. non-profit organization (MATT – Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together) in gathering survey data for 600 returning migrants in Guadalajara. The workshop, nevertheless, was a good reminder of the challenges that survey firms are likely to encounter when conducting research in Mexico and the U.S.
In summary, the visit to Toluca was professionally and culturally rewarding, and provided the foundation for a new research partnership with UAEM faculty and Parámetro research staff that can be used to facilitate the implementation of future studies on both sides of the border.
Edward T. Rincón is president of Rincón & Associates LLC, a privately-owned research company that provides research and consultative support to organizations that seek to understand diverse communities in domestic and global markets. He received his master’s in School Psychology and doctorate in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in survey and experimental research methods, psychometrics, and statistical analysis.
He has taught various courses at area academic institutions, including Statistics and Hispanic Marketing at Southern Methodist University; Mass Communications Research at The University of North Texas; and Survey Research Methods at The University of Texas at Dallas. In addition, he has provided workshops to the public and community organizations on selected topics such as retrieving and analyzing Census data, principles of Hispanic marketing, designing effective questionnaires for diverse audiences, data analysis with SPSS, and designing effective visual presentations of research data.
Dr. Rincón’s scholarly interests include survey and polling methodology, demographic analysis, measurement bias, and qualitative research with a focus on multicultural populations. His perspectives have often challenged high-stakes measurement systems utilized by The Nielsen Company, aptitude testing in college admissions, competency testing in Texas schools, and affirmative action programs in public contracting. His research studies and perspectives have been cited in national and regional publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Advertising Age, Forbes.com, Ad Week, Broadcasting and Cable, The Dallas Morning News, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Miami Herald, Multi-Channel News, National Public Radio, Restaurants & Institutions, and others.
Over the past 35 years, Dr. Rincón has consulted with a broad variety of private and public organizations, and has testified before governmental bodies and court cases as an expert witness. In the political arena, his clients have included Pete Sessions for Congress Campaign, Consortium of Public Broadcasters 2000 Presidential campaign poll, Zan Holmes for Mayor Campaign poll, Eastfield College bond election campaign, UT-Arlington and SMU political poll of perceptions of immigrants, and a WFAA political opinion poll concerning race relations in Dallas. In the non-political arena, some of his clients have included Proctor & Gamble, The Sherwin-Williams Company, Texas Rangers, Texas Instruments, DFW International Airport, Verizon Information Systems, Educational Testing Service, Coca Cola North America, Circle K/Tosco Marketing, Pepsi Cola, Dr Pepper/Cadbury North America, KERA, WFAA, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Palm Beach Post, ABC and CBS Network Television, City of Dallas, Dallas Zoo, State of Texas, State of North Carolina Library Association, Comerica Bank, Catholic Diocese of Dallas, General Baptist Convention of Texas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Trial Psychology Institute, Parkland Health & Hospital System, Baylor Health Care System, and Children’s Medical Center Dallas.