How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans



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How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans
John R. Logan

Lewis Mumford Center

University at Albany
July 14, 2003

Mumford Center research assistants Hyoung-jin Shin


and Jacob Stowell contributed to the analyses reported here.

Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S. They are also quite diverse. A previous Mumford Center report analyzed differences among Hispanics by national origin. This report assesses racial differences among Hispanics. Census data do not allow us to measure how people are actually perceived in the neighborhoods where they live and work and go to school. They do enable us to count Hispanics with different racial identifications, compare them in terms of social and economic background, evaluate their residential integration with whites, blacks, and other Hispanics, and assess whether other characteristics of their neighborhoods are more similar to the neighborhoods where whites, blacks or other Hispanics live.


Since 1970 the U.S. Census has asked all Americans to identify their race and, separately, whether they are Hispanic. This means Hispanics can be of any race. It is widely understood that there is a small black minority among Hispanics. Less well known is that only about half of Hispanics in Census 2000 identified themselves in standard racial categories such as white, black, or Asian on their census form. Nearly as many people instead wrote in their own term, most often “Latino,” “Hispanic,” or a similar word. Many of these people might be perceived by non-Hispanics as “white” – but apparently they do not see themselves in that way. In this report they are referred to as “Hispanic Hispanics.”
We find substantial differences among these Hispanic racial groups:

  • Hispanic Hispanics are the fastest growing segment, and very likely they will soon be an absolute majority of Hispanic Americans.

  • There are nearly a million black Hispanics. These people have a socioeconomic profile much more similar to non-Hispanic blacks than to other Hispanic groups, and their neighborhoods have nearly as many black as Hispanic residents. Many black Hispanic children have a non-Hispanic black mother or father.

  • A very small share of Mexicans identifies as black. Still, there are nearly a quarter million black Mexicans in the United States. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are most likely to identify as black. Cubans, in contrast, mostly identify as white.

  • White Hispanics have the highest socioeconomic standing, they live in closest proximity to non-Hispanic whites, and their neighborhoods have a more affluent class composition than those of other Hispanic groups.

  • A strong predictor of racial identification of Hispanics is the racial mix of the metropolitan region where they live. Among metros with the largest Hispanic populations, Miami has the highest share of white Hispanics; New York has the highest share of black Hispanics. In California and Texas, Hispanic Hispanics generally are the majority of Hispanics.


Technical issues: measuring race among Hispanics
The Census Bureau treats race and Hispanic origin as distinct concepts, although often users of census data and the Bureau itself combine them to compare information about non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. Background information about the Bureau’s approach can be found at: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/compraceho.html. Census 2000 switched the order of the “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?” question and the race identification question, asking the Hispanic origin question before the race question. This change may have affected Hispanics’ response to the race question.
One source of information for this report is microdata from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses (Public Use Microdata Samples, or PUMS). These data files allow maximum flexibility in the creation of categories of race and Hispanic origin, and they make it possible to tabulate many social and economic characteristics of Hispanics by their self-reported race. However they are sample data, and they are most reliable at the national level.
For information on specific metropolitan regions and census tracts within them, we rely on pre-tabulated summary files from Census 2000 (SF1 and SF3). Use of these files is complicated by the fact that people were able to report multiple races in this census, but summary files available at this time report data for only a few of the possible combinations.
For the purposes of this study, we classify Hispanics into the following categories:


  • Hispanic Hispanics. Persons who identified as “other race” (most often writing in “Hispanic” or a similar term) alone or in combination with another specific race. The census refers to these people as “some other race” Hispanics.




  • Black Hispanics. Persons who identified as “black” alone or in combination with another race. There is some overlap in the summary file data between this category and the Hispanic Hispanic category. About 120,000 Hispanic Hispanics also identified themselves as black.




  • White Hispanics. Persons who identified neither as “other race” nor as “black.” A more complete label for this group would be “white, Asian, or Native American.” However analysis of microdata shows that 96% in this category identified only as white.


Size and characteristics of Hispanic racial subgroups
Table 1 shows the evolution of the Hispanic population of the United States by race for 1980, 1990, and 2000 (calculated from PUMS data for each year). The Hispanic population more than doubled in this period.
The category that we call “white Hispanic” is still the largest. It included nearly two thirds of Hispanics in 1980, declining to a 54% share in 1990, and now just below half in 2000.
In 1970, only 700,000 Hispanics identified themselves as “some other race.” Since then, however, this group that we call Hispanic Hispanics has risen to about a third in 1980, 44% in 1990 and 47% in 2000.
A small but steady share of Hispanics identified as black in all three years, just under 3%. Though a small percentage, the number of black Hispanics has grown from under 400,000 to over 900,000 in the period.



Table 1. Racial composition of the Hispanic population of the U.S., 1980-2000

 






















 

 



















Growth

 

1980

1990

2000

1980-1990

1990-2000

Hispanic Hispanic

4,979,240

33.7%

9,426,634

44.2%

16,700,055

47.4%

89.3%

77.2%

Black Hispanic

388,240

2.6%

633,516

2.9%

939,471

2.7%

63.2%

48.3%

White Hispanic

9,397,240

63.7%

11,776,701

53.9%

17,601,942

49.9%

25.3%

49.5%

Hispanic Total

14,764,720

100%

21,836,851

100%

35,241,468

100%

47.9%

61.4%

Who among Hispanics identifies as black or Hispanic rather than white? Table 2 shows that black Hispanics are very distinctive. They are much less likely to be immigrants compared to the average Hispanic (28% compared to 41% for all Hispanics), and much less likely to speak a language other than English at home (61% compared to 79%). They have an advantage in education (with a mean of 11.7 years, nearly a high school level, compared to 10.5 years for all Hispanics). On the other hand their actual economic performance is worse, with a lower median household income ($3500 below the Hispanic average), higher unemployment (more than 3 percentage points above the Hispanic average), and a higher poverty rate (31.5% compared to 26.0%).


Table 2 also allows a comparison of Black Hispanics to non-Hispanic Blacks. Like black Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks had a lower median income ($34,300), higher unemployment rate (11.0%), and higher rate of poverty (29.7%) than did the average Hispanic. Compared to black Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks were slightly poorer but had lower rates of unemployment and poverty and higher education. The main differences between them were related to nativity. Non-Hispanic blacks in 2000 were much less likely to be foreign-born (6.7%). In this respect, black Hispanics fall in between African Americans (all born in the U.S.) and Afro-Caribbeans, a majority of whom are foreign-born.
White Hispanics have the highest incomes and lowest rates of unemployment and poverty. The table shows that Hispanics who identified themselves as “other race” in the census – those we call Hispanic Hispanics – fall squarely between white Hispanics and black Hispanics in their income, unemployment and poverty levels. However they are the Hispanic group with the highest proportion of foreign-born members and they are most likely to hold onto the Spanish language.



Table 2. Socioeconomic characteristics of Hispanic groups and blacks, 2000

 
















 

 

Foreign

Speak other

Years of

Median




Below

 

born

language

education

income

Unemployed

poverty

White Hispanic

38.8%

75.7%

11.0

$39,900

8.0%

24.1%

Hispanic Hispanic

43.8%

82.6%

9.9

$37,500

9.5%

27.7%

Black Hispanic

28.2%

60.8%

11.7

$35,000

12.3%

31.5%

Hispanic Total

40.9%

78.6%

10.5

$38,500

8.8%

26.0%

Non-Hispanic Black

6.4%

6.3%

12.5

$34,000

11.0%

29.7%
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