Latinos Identifying By Race More Than A Decade Ago

An analysis of 2010 Census data by USA Today revealed that Hispanics in states with some of the largest Hispanic populations categorized themselves by race more often than in the last Census and many more also chose “white” under the race category.

Census data on 27 states has been released so far by the Census Bureau this year, and more Hispanics chose a specific race than 10 years earlier in more than half of these including Texas, California and New Jersey.

In the last Census, more Hispanics chose “some other race” over “white” but this time around the Census modified the questionnaire to instruct Hispanics to pick a race and also state their national origin, which is viewed by many Hispanics as more important than race.

This change in the wording probably made the difference why more Hispanics opted to identify by race in this census, according to Roderick Harrison, a demographer at Howard University and former chief of the Census racial statistics branch.

“It seems to be allowing more to identify as white without feeling that they are … in denial about their Hispanicity,” Harrison said.

But there are ambivalent feelings over the meaning of the results of the analysis.  Some take it as a sign that Hispanics are increasingly adjusting to the way Americans categorize race while others say Hispanics have simply come to the realization that “Hispanic” is not considered a race by the government, but as an ethnicity.

“I don’t know if it’s assimilation or just learning,” Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, said.

A campaign with greater outreach and education by advocacy groups could also explain the more “race-specific” Census results, says Amanda Keammerer, community relations manager for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a sign of assimilation,” she said. “They’re confused because they thought Hispanic is a race.”

Other say still that the findings don’t matter much at all for Hispanics, who can have a diverse and mixed background ranging from Spanish to Native American to black, etc.

“For us, the self-identity of a race is less of an issue than ‘Are you Hispanic — yes or no?’ ” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund, said.

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