Census Asks: Is Latino An Ethnicity Or Race?
January 09, 2013

In August, Jude Joffe-Block reported that the census is thinking of better ways to ask Americans about their race. A problem exists. If you identify as “Latino” you’re not identifying a race, but (as the government sees it) an ethnicity. If you remember, in the census these are two separate questions:

Questions eight and nine from the 2010 Census regarding Hispanic origin and race.

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But the “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish” population grows, so does the confusion.
Via, NPR:

The government categorizes Hispanic as an ethnicity, while many Hispanics think of it as a race. The confusion played out in the 2010 count, as nearly 22 million people — 97 percent of whom were Hispanic — identified as "some other race." It ranked as the third-largest racial category.

What is "some other race?" This question can lead to a rabbit hole of descriptions. KPCC asked its audience: If you met someone on the street, how would you describe your ethnic or racial background to him or her?

Here are a handful of responses:

Mixed.

LatinoAmeriGringa, a word I came up with which describes the many people like myself.

My parents are from Puerto Rico; my siblings and I were born in Ohio.

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The census numbers surrounding race and population are a starting point for many important decisions. As Latinos gain more political clout, some leaders fear a change to the census could affect their growing influence. NPR:

Latino leaders say changing the Hispanic origin question could create confusion and lead some Latinos not to mark their ethnicity, shrinking the overall Hispanic numbers.

"We're the only group in the country that has our own question? Why give it up?" says Angelo Falcon, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy. "A lot of Latino researchers like the question the way it is now because it shows those differences. The way the Census Bureau is thinking about combining the questions, it might take away that information in terms of how we fit within the American racial hierarchy."

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