Race v. Ethnicity Among Hispanics


I’ve long argued that if you want to make coherent logical sense of the U.S. government’s distinction between race and ethnicity, then:

  • A racial group is a partly inbred biological extended family
  • While an ethnic group is united by some or all of the nonbiological traits usually found among extended families but that aren’t necessarily biological, such as shared language, religion, cuisine, heroes, customs, and so forth.

The most obvious example for thinking about this involves adoption: An adoptee might be racially Korean but also be ethnically white Minnesotan Lutheran or whatever.

From the NYT’s Upshot:

More Hispanics Declaring Themselves White Nate Cohn

Hispanics are often described as driving up the nonwhite share of the population. But a new study of census forms finds that more Hispanics are identifying as white.

An estimated net 1.2 million Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” as the census form puts it, changed their race from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, according to research presented at an annual meeting of the Population Association of America and reported by Pew Research.

All over the world, in both Latin America and India, people want to be seen as fairer, going so far as to painfully bleach their skin (e.g., Sammy Sosa). In America, however, the government, academia, and media offer incentives for these folks to identify strongly as nonwhite. However, that bangs up against their distaste for African-Americans.

The researchers, who have not yet published their findings, compared individual census forms from the 2000 and 2010 censuses. They found that millions of Americans answered the census questions about race and ethnicity differently in 2000 and 2010. The largest shifts were among Americans of Hispanic origin, who are the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group by total numbers.

Race is an immutable characteristic for many white, black and Asian-Americans.

It is less clear for Americans of Hispanic origin. The census form asks two questions about race and ethnicity: one about whether individuals are of Hispanic or Latino origin, and another about race. “Hispanics” do not constitute a race, according to the census, and so 37 percent of Hispanics, presumably dissatisfied with options like “white” or “black,” selected “some other race.”

The researchers found that 2.5 million Americans of Hispanic origin, or approximately 7 percent of the 35 million Americans of Hispanic origin in 2000, changed their race from “some other race” in 2000 to “white” in 2010. An additional 1.3 million people switched in the other direction. A noteworthy but unspecified share of the change came from children who weren’t old enough to fill out a form in 2000, but chose for themselves in 2010.

The data provide new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish, who were not universally considered to be white.

Which is why Italians and Irish were constantly being sold into slavery.

But, like I’ve said, while the media denounce the GOP for being the White Party and thus a party that Hispanics and Asians would naturally be allergic to, the Democrats ought to fear being identified in the minds of Hispanics and Asians as the Black Party. Where the rubber hits the road, most Hispanics and Asians would rather ally with self-confident whites than with blacks, which is why the confidence of whites is under constant assault for all manner of racial high crimes and misdemeanors.

(The Republicans can help along the process of the Dems being considered the Black Party. The Dems win with Hispanics and Asians when the election is framed as the Evil White Party v. the Cool Multi-Party. The Repubs win with Hispanics and Asians when the election is framed as the Responsible Adult Party v. the Dysfunctional Corrupt Black Party.)

It is particularly significant that the shift toward white identification withstood a decade of debate over immigration and the country’s exploding Hispanic population, which might have been expected to inculcate or reinforce a sense of Hispanic identity, or draw attention to divisions that remain between Hispanics and non-Hispanic white Americans. Research suggests that Hispanics who have experienced discrimination are less likely to identify as white.

The data also call into question whether America is destined to become a so-called minority-majority nation, where whites represent a minority of the nation’s population. Those projections assume that Hispanics aren’t white, but if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future.

Of course, as the government offers money and prizes to Hispanics and Asians for identifying as non-white, it’s hard to bet against their leaders insisting on being victims of the Evil White Man.

White identification is not necessarily a sign that Hispanics consider themselves white. Many or even most might identify their race as “Hispanic” if it were an explicit option.

The American government doesn’t offer useful Latin American racial categories such as mestizo, mulatto, and pardo, so they tend to fill out the race and ethnicity forms in a hit or miss fashion.

… There is mounting evidence that Hispanics are succeeding in American society at a pace similar to that of prior waves of European immigrants.

As long as we ignore the economic collapse of the popping of the Mortgage Bubble.