How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Latinos and race: How racial identity varies by generation

Source: Pew Hispanic Center


Today on KPCC's Patt Morrison Show, I'll be among the guests talking about the nuances of the pan-ethnic labels attached to people of Latin American origin in the United States, people like yours truly who are asked to identify on census forms as "Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish Origin."

It's been roughly forty years since the "Hispanic" category was introduced by the U.S. Census Bureau, but a recent Pew Hispanic Center study indicates that all these years later, a majority of people described by the Hispanic/Latino label still prefer to identify according to their family's country of origin. There are differences, depending on where people live, which immigrant generation they come from, and so forth.

And there are other interesting wrinkles in the report, including how Latinos/Hispanics/lo que sea (which loosely translates to "whatever") identify in terms of race. Other research has found similar generational differences, but it's fascinating: While second-generation Latinos are less likely to describe themselves as "white" than their immigrant parents are, the grandchildren of Latino immigrants are the most likely to describe themselves as white. They are also the least apt to refer to themselves as Hispanic/Latino. From the report:

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More on Latinos and race: The rise of the Latino 'American Indian'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Car sticker seen on an L.A. freeway, February 2011

A recent post highlighted a Migration Policy Institute article that explored the origin of the “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin” category on census forms, and in the 40 years that Latinos have been asked to identify in terms of Spanish origin, the varying ways in which they have also come to identify in terms of race.

The "Hispanic or Latino" category is an ethnic category, not a racial one. In the 2000 census, slightly under half of the 35.2 million Latinos counted reported their race as white. The rest of the racial categories they can choose from may or may not apply. Not surprisingly perhaps, 43 percent of Latinos in 2000 identified themselves as “other race.”

But a fascinating piece in the New York Times this weekend reported a rise in the number of Latinos identifying themselves as "American Indian" in the 2010 census. From the story:

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