Modern Diversity May Prompt US Census Bureau to Seek Better Classification of Hispanics' Race
Modernizing data and research methods, as well as offering clear depictions of diversity in the nation's population, are prominent objectives of the United States Census Bureau. However, the government agency has often missed its mark.
The U.S. population continues to diversify. As the number of non-whites increases, there's been a growing demand for the bureau to better and more accurately catalog those living in the U.S., as the current process doesn't allow individuals to self-identify in a way that makes sense for them and their heritage. But the upcoming 2020 census promises to offer more accuracy.
The Hispanic origin question (identify ethnicity and complete questions about race) has evolved. Each decade the organization looks to more appropriately sort and label the budding Hispanic demographic.
"White, black and 'some other race'" are selections presented after identifying one's ethnicity as Hispanic. But most Hispanics believe that the delineated racial categories don't represent their identities, while others believe that each category represents them.
Nearly 48 million people classified themselves as being of Hispanic or Latino origin on the 2010 census, and of them, more than 30 percent considered themselves "some other race" as well. Many opted to emphasize their Hispanic heritage by writing in "Latin American," "Hispanic" or "Puerto Rican," and an additional 13 percent declined to provide a race altogether.
In the next decennial count in 2020, the bureau will likely modify the Hispanic question. Hispanic participants will be able to continue to select as many racial categories as they would like but won't be pushed to select one. Nonetheless, for some Afro-Latinos, the notion that Hispanics are monolithic isn't eliminated by the potential reform to the census, as erasure is still a concern.
Regarding race, 47.7 percent of Hispanics reported "white" as their race, compared to 2.1 percent reporting "black," despite statistics on the African diaspora, which would suggest much higher numbers, particularly among those hailing from Brazil, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama or Ecuador. That said, many are unlikely to identify as black; instead they may honor a myriad of other terms regarding mixed-race and African ancestry, including moreno, afrodescendiente, pardo, mulato and zambo.
Between 2000's census and 2010's, many Hispanics switched from "white" to "some other race" and vice versa. That change has been credited to the "fluidity of Hispanic identity" and the changing ways that Hispanics view their own hair texture, skin color and racial backgrounds. However, it could also be credited to the way the question is posed.
"It's not that the people are confused; it's that the question is inexact," said Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, a professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, of the decision by many Latinos to choose "some other race" or no race at all. "If you are asking somebody simply what their skin color is -- that's how some people understand the question. Some people say they are asking me about my ancestry. Others think they are asking me about how I'm treated when I go outside."
In preparation for the 2020 census, the 2014 Census Test will be conducted throughout Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, MD during the summer of 2014, in order to test new methods and advanced technologies. It will check the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and test different strategies for following up with households that don't self-respond. For the upcoming census, respondents will be able to participate through telephone, Internet and traditional paper questionnaires.
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!