Shedding Light on Race Reporting Among Hispanics

Written by: Merarys Ríos-Vargas and Fabián Romero

Over the last few decades, many Census Bureau studies have examined race reporting among Hispanics on the census questionnaire, but these studies did not specifically look at those who self-reported being of Hispanic origin.

A new working paper, “Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010,” examines this topic and found that more than 40 percent of Hispanics who self-reported their origin did not report belonging to any federally recognized race group as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.

During the 2010 Census, questions on race and Hispanic origin were asked of everyone living in the United States. The standards of the Office of Management and Budget define “Hispanic or Latino”  as a person of  Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

In 2010, the vast majority of the Hispanic population self-reported their origin (94.2 percent) and 5.8 percent were imputed (i.e., assigned, allocated or substituted during data editing), see table below.  

Self-reported Hispanics are defined as those respondents who reported being of Hispanic origin. In other words, their Hispanic origin was not imputed (imputation is the process used to estimate missing data). If the question was left blank the origin was imputed by one of the following three imputation types: assigned, allocated or substituted

Hispanic or Latino Population by Response Type for the Question on Hispanic Origin: 2010

The table below shows the racial classification of Hispanics who self-reported their Hispanic origin in the 2010 Census.

It is interesting that more than two-fifths (43.5 percent) of self-reported Hispanics did not report belonging to any federally recognized race group. This includes 30.5 percent who reported or were classified as “Some Other Race” (SOR) only. Respondents are classified this way when they only check and/or write-in responses not categorized as any of the OMB race groups. An additional 13.0 percent of self-reported Hispanics did not provide a response to the race question.  

Hispanic or Latino Population by Type of Response to the Question on Race: 2010The top three SOR write-in codes reported in the 2010 Census shown in the table below— Mexican, Hispanic, and Latin American—constituted about three-fourths (77.0 percent) of all the SOR responses among Hispanics in 2010. The write-in codes Puerto Rican (3.7 percent), and Multiple SOR (3.6 percent) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

The SOR write-in codes displayed in the last table represent edited SOR responses, and each code consists of multiple equivalent write-in responses. For example, write-in responses such as “Mexican American,” “Mexicana” and “Mexico” were coded as “Mexican.”

Top 5 Some Other Race Write-in Codes for the Hispanic or Latino Population: 2010The Census Bureau plans to examine race reporting among Hispanics throughout the decade through a series of regional and national census tests in order to provide more insights on Hispanic race reporting.

The findings from this study are intended to supplement the results presented in the “2010 Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE)” report.

For more detailed information, the working paper “Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010” also provides an overall demographic description of the self-reported Latino population and examines different types of responses to the race question by selected demographic characteristics and geographies.

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10 Responses to Shedding Light on Race Reporting Among Hispanics

  1. Orlando Vazquez says:

    Great article. I have a question to audience. Has anyone had any instance of Latino on Latino discrimination or harassment based on national origin? In my previous employment there was such action by one group of hispanic vs another due to their birthplace and it was obvious and prevelant. As a HR professional, I was deeply disturbed that the leadership of these organizations would not address this and seek refuge under the perception that this could be allowed because there is no discriminating act by one Latino vs another? Anyone else has experienced this?

    • Raquelito says:

      There is discrimination among Latinos, as with other ethnic groups. For example, a sizeable number of Nicaraguans have immigrated to Costa Rica, and the Nicaraguans are facing some discrimination problems. In So. CA, the Mexicans and the Salvadoreans keep to their respective parts of town. There is also discrimination within a particular Latino sub-group. For example, if you are darker skinned, you are seen as an “Indio” and treated unfairly, as opposed to being white skinned; all this among folks from the same country of origin. Of course, these examples aren’t the rule. I’ve found folks to be generally welcoming, especially if they all speak Spanish.

      I don’t know that HRs want to do anything about it. But I suspect, when it raises to the level of a physical act, then action is taken. In the interim, not sure what organizations do.

      Good luck to you.

  2. Livia says:

    The Census should consider adding the possibility to report heritage indigenous to the Americas, not just the United States of America. The great majority of Latinos/Hispanics in the USA are mestizo (mixed European and Indian) or otherwise mixed. They are treated as non-white by the rest of the population and well aware of their non-white heritage. To ask the population to ignore that and check “White” is disingenuous. Of course the “some other race” box is overused.

    • Javier says:

      Your comment, I believe, is on point. I self-reported as Mestizo.

    • Petra says:

      I agree Livia, this is what I put down or I check off white and Indian American, since Central America is part of the americas. But the affiliation to tribes, etc. was confusing. I think the Census needs to do a better job at informing and training since I called the census helpline and told them I wanted to put down meztizo and they had no clue what I was saying.

  3. Josué says:

    As I understand it, Dominican’s have a higher probability of identifying as SOR. Some have said Dominican’s selecting SOR is due to measurement error (i.e., don’t understand the question).

    Based on my anecdotal experience, Dominican’s perceive being Dominican as a race. The City University of New York has a Dominican Studies Institute. The Census should consider reaching out to researchers to investigate this phenomenon. This is different from the cognitive interviewing approach. The cognitive interview approach is limited by not have a representation of the different Hispanic ethnicities.

  4. A member of a federally recognized tribe in the U.S.A. says:

    The 2010 census was a joke by all accounts. In its attempt to allow people to self identify it has caused a inaccurate count of individuals the liberty to self identify as Native American or having Native American heritage. I have to note as a federal government worker that no where on our self identifying information form does it allow for Native Americans to be able to name or select that they are part of a federally recognized tribe. I find this particularly offensive especially when anyone can claim Native American heritage but those of us that are members of a federally recognized tribe have to provide and prove blood quantum for membership and we are required to have proof of it. And yet the actual government that requires such documentation does not allow us to identify as members. And to further the insult, the Census department allowed anyone to check off anything, so what has occurred is that the 2010 census is totally skewed not only for Hispanics but for members of Federally Recognized Tribes and indigenous people separately. There should be a white paper that not only addresses Hispanic according but accurate Native American reporting as well.

  5. Eduardo says:

    I was always disturbed a little by the fact that the census data expresed “race” for some people and “geographical origin” for some other. In my case, I was born in Latin America, but like a lot of people in my hometown also I am “white” with green eyes. Everybody is surprised when I start speaking spanish.
    From my mother side I am German and Brittish. From my father side it is more complicated because my great great grandfather came from Spain but married a “goajiro” indian, then also my grand mother was from a sephardic jewish family.
    To make matters worse my wife is half italian.
    But to tell you the truth all this is pretty common in Latin America.

  6. Carlos Siordia says:

    The idea of “race” and “ethnicity” is fraud with complexity.
    Non-governmental interest (e.g., academia) frequently object to categorization schemes used by the US Census Bureau to group individuals. It is important to keep in mind why the federal government collects information on race and ethnicity. In general, legal mandates for collecting these data do not match special issues of concern to civilian organizations. The basic premise that individuals can be group by some phenotype is politically charged and of great concern to those working in this field. I think the best US Census Bureau statisticians can do is understand what they have at their disposal by delving into the intricacies of survey methodology…

  7. Joseph Montes says:

    The term “Hispanic” as a demographic category is one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated by a government. It is apparent that the vast majority of Americans, including many or most of Latin American origin, do not know what a Mestizo is, which is what most of them are. (A Mestizo is a person of mixed white and Amerindian ancestry, and will typically have an Amerindian phenotype). The OMB is an unscientific agency governed by political interests The US census should abandon the category “Hispanic” and apply instead terms like “Mestizo” and “Mulatto” to be scientifically correct. This is the twenty-first century, a time for scientific truths, not gross anti-science. No wonder Americans score so low on international assessments of scientific knowledge. A Spaniard who is white (and many Spaniards even look like proverbial Northern Europeans so beloved to white Americans) can go back to being Caucasian. Repetition of this fraudulent category in all American media, including on TV news, and even sociology textbooks, gives Americans the false sense that the category “Hispanic” is legitimate. As a scientist I have viewed genetic data (yes, scientific data) showing that the identifier “Hispanic” is a big lie! Most Latin Americans don’t actually “look” Spanish, nor are they genetically homogeneous by culture or race. Stop the fraud now! Give American Latinos the right to identify who they really are, as is done with Americans in general. An Argentine of German descent can go back to being a person of German descent, etc. Is a Japanese-origin person born and raised in Cuba, for example, magically transformed by the OMB into a Mestizo called a “Hispanic”? Apparently the OMB thinks so.

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