What’s in a Racial Identity? American Latinos All Over the Map, Study Finds

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6

WASHINGTON—Latinos who view themselves as white are more likely to be better-educated, earn more, register to vote and vote Republican, according to a national study to be released today on how Latinos identify racially.

The study by the Pew Hispanic Center also found some notable regional differences not yet fully understood. For example, in California, 42% of U.S.-born Mexican Americans identified themselves as white, compared with 63% of their ethnic counterparts in Texas.

The analysis of Census data and recent surveys is perhaps the most detailed in a relatively new field of research on how Latinos adapt to the rigid racial categories they encounter in the United States. It is the first to probe the differences between Latinos who consider themselves white and those who say they are of some other race.

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The Pew study found that Latinos who said they were white were more likely to describe themselves as American than those who said they were of some other race.

When given the choice of identifying themselves as American on the one hand or Hispanic, Mexican or some other national origin identifier on the other, 55% of the Latinos who said they were white picked American. Among the rest, 36% did so, according to Pew survey results.

One-quarter of Latinos who said they were white cited discrimination as a major problem, compared with one-third who said they were of some other race. They were also less likely to be high school dropouts, live in poverty and be unemployed.

Among U.S.-born Latinos, 85% of those who said they were white were registered voters, compared with 67% of those who said they were of some other race. And 22% of those who said they were white also said they were Republicans, compared with 13% among Latinos of some other race.

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Latinos in the U.S. who consider themselves white are more likely to be better-educated, have higher incomes and speak English only, compared with those who consider themselves some other race. Here is a breakdown for U.S.-born Mexican Americans in California:

Education

Less than high school

Say they are white: 26%

Say they are some other race: 30%

High school

Say they are white: 23%

Say they are some other race: 28%

Some college

Say they are white: 35%

Say they are some other race: 32%

Bachelor’s degree plus

Say they are white:16%

Say they are some other race: 10%

**

Income (men only)

$35,000 or more

White: 31%

Some other race: 23%

**

Language spoken

English only

White: 40%

Some other race: 28%

Bilingual

White: 59%

Some other race: 71%

Remainder speak Spanish only

*

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

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