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Two-Thirds of Latinos Consider Hispanic Their Race: Pew Report

by Suzanne Gamboa /  / Updated 
Union City
Residents walk down a street in Union City in 2011. Union City, one of the New Jersey's largest cities, has a population of Hispanic or Latino origin of over 80%. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Two-thirds of Latinos in the U.S. consider their Hispanic background to be part of their race, a newly released Pew Research Center survey has found.

That’s the case even though Hispanic is considered an ethnicity by the U.S. Census bureau.

“That finding alone ... speaks to many Hispanics who say that their background is part of their race. That is something that doesn’t fit with what Census’ five standard backgrounds are,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.

Those backgrounds are white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

The Pew Research Center’s report Mutiracial in America, issued Thursday, gives a detailed picture of how Americans who consider themselves multiracial see themselves. People from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds were surveyed for the report.

Overall 6.9 percent of Americans, 9 million, consider themselves mixed race, meaning they have at least two races in their background.

If Latinos who also consider being Hispanic part of their race are included, that share increases to 8.9 percent, Lopez said.

The Census started allowing people to describe themselves as multiracial in 2000 and in the decade since the number of white and black Americans who consider themselves multiracial has more than doubled, while adults with white and Asian backgrounds has increased 87 percent, Pew reported.

Meanwhile, the share of multiracial babies has gone from 1 percent in 1970 to 10 percent in 2013.

Census estimates that 2.1 percent of the adult population is multiracial. But Pew arrived at its number by taking into account how adults describe their own race and the racial backgrounds of their parents and grandparents.

Following its own definition, Pew found that biracial adults with a white and American Indian background are about half the country's multiracial population but are also the population least likely to consider themselves multiracial.

Black and American Indian biracial adults account for 12 percent and those with white and black background, 11 percent. Eleven percent are Hispanic multiracial adults. For these measurements, Pew considered Hispanic multiracial adults to be those with two or more races in their background.

Overall, those surveyed said they are proud to be multiracial, but endure racial slurs and jokes. They are not easily categorized and have varying attitudes, experiences and views on how they see themselves.

The finding that such a large share of Latinos consider Hispanic to be their race also has ramifications for the next Census to be done in 2020.

More than any other group, Latinos say their race is "some other race" on Census forms and mostly write in "Mexican," "Hispanic," or "Latin American." In 2010, 37 percent of Hispanics picked some other race and wrote it in and 42 percent in 2000.

Pew found that language preference didn't make much difference to the share of Hispanics who consider Hispanic to be their racial background. They were about the same whether Spanish or English dominant.

“The Census bureau is considering many different ways to change the question on race and is still doing research,” Lopez said. “Do we include Hispanic? Should it be separate?”

Other findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of Hispanics who report having two or more Census races do not consider themselves mixed race.
  • About half of Hispanics who consider their Hispanic background part of their racial background and indicate one census race in their background do not consider themselves mixed race.
  • Thirty percent of Hispanics who say their background includes two or more races say most people would see them as white if they passed them on the street.
  • Forty-eight percent of Hispanics who chose one Census race but consider Hispanic to be part of their racial background say most people would think they are Hispanic if they passed them on the street.
  • About one-in-four (24 percent) of Latinos consider themselves to be Afro-Latino or of other African origin, such as Afro-Colombian.
  • One-in-four Latinos consider themselves of indigenous origin.

Melanie Bencosme contributed to this report.

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