Race Reporting on the Census: Hispanics Don't Identify With the American Concept of Race

Census race data are used for many purposes, from enforcing civil rights laws, monitoring racial disparities in education and health, and distributing federal aid, to redrawing state legislative and local school districts and reapportioning congressional seats.  In an effort to improve the validity and reliability of race reporting on the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau implemented in 2010 a Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE).  Nearly 500,000 households received the experimental questionnaire, in which the race and ethnicity questions were worded differently (including combining them as a single question) than the official form.  Households that received the official form were first asked to indicate whether they were of Hispanic or Latino origin, before being asked to check one of the five official government racial categories boxes (white, black or African Am. Or Negro, American Indian or Native Alaskan, or one of several Asian options) or, optionally, to select a box called “some other race”—and to write in a response in a box below.

A new U.S. Census Bureau report analyzing the results of the 2010 Census indicates that :
  • Many people, particularly Latinos and immigrants, don't identify with the American concept of race: whereas the U.S. government categorizes Hispanic as an ethnicity, many Hispanics think of it as a race. As a result, 22 million people — 97 percent of whom were Hispanic — chose "some other race" as racial category.
  • One-third of the 47.4 million self-identified Hispanics chose “some other race” when describing their racial identity. Among them, 44.3 percent wrote in Mexican, Mexican American or Mexico in the box provided. An additional 22.7 percent wrote in Hispanic or Hispano or Hispana as their race and another 10.0 percent wrote in Latin American or Latino or Latin.  This finding is consistent with findings from other surveys from the Pew Research Center, for instance, showing that Hispanics prefer to be identified by their country of origin.

"The 'some other race' option in the census form's race question was never intended to be a category selected by so many respondents. The category was added to the 1980 census form to capture the small numbers of people who did not select one of the official race categories. But since then, it has grown to become the third-largest race category in the census."

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Identity Politics and the Latino vs. Hispanic Debate: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3449)
Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center Interactive (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3889)
Exploring Race and Ethnicity Using Census 2000 Data (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3176)
Frederique Laubepin

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