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National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP)

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Jos� R. S�nchez
Edgar DeJesus
Israel Colon
Maria Rivera
   Development Chair

Hector Figueroa

Tanya K. Hernandez
 Angelo Falc�n


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NiLP Census Masthead

Note: As part of its research on possible future changes in the Hispanic and race questions for the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has just released a working paper, "Race Reporting by Hispanics: 2010." In it, they explore the effects on question response for variations of the current separate race and Hispanic questions format, versus one that combines both questions into one.


One goal of this work is to bring Hispanic responses more in line with the established race categories defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), especially ways to minimize the responses to the "Some Other Race" (SOR) category on the race questions. They point out that, "One concern, largely stemming from the Latino community, is the potential negative impact on race reporting among the Hispanic or Latino population (e.g., the undercounting of 'Afro-Latinos') if a new combined question is approved for the 2020 Census." They go on to conclude that "If improvements to the current race question are not implemented in the near future, it is likely Latinos will continue to struggle in reporting their race in Census Bureau surveys."


One question this raises is whether in proposing a combined question conflating ethnic and racial dimensions the Census Bureau would be artificially forcing Latinos to selected U.S.-based racial identifications. Another issue is whether the extensive use by Latinos of the "Some Other Race" category really represents Latinos continuing to "struggle in reporting their race in Census Bureau surveys" or is it a legitimate response to U.S. definitions of race that do not apply to the experience many Latinos. This working paper and the Census Bureau has ignored these questions that should be an important part of the discussion on the future of the race and Hispanic questions as they affect the counting of an increasingly diverse population.


---Angelo Falc�n 

Shedding Light on 

Race Reporting Among Hispanics

By Merarys R�os-Vargas and Fabi�n Romero

US Census Bureau (March 28, 2014)


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.


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.