In addition to asking respondents to racially self-identify from among 16 categories, including “White”, “Hispanic”, and “Other”, the GSS separately asks respondents if they are “Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino/Latina”.
The following graph shows the percentages of those who racially identified as “White” (rather than as “Hispanic” or “Other”) who, when asked whether or not they were “Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino/Latina” responded that they were (in white) and the percentage of the total population that chose to racially identify as “Hispanic” or “Other” (in brown), by year:
Parenthetically, adding those two lines together gets us to the total Hispanic share of the country’s entire population.
This admittedly is not what I’d expected to find when running the numbers. I’d expected to see a flight from White, but the survey shows the opposite, with more than twice the proportion of racial whites identifying as ethnically Hispanic today compared to a couple of decades ago.
When it comes to describing their identity, most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms. Half (51%) say that most .often they use their family’s country of origin to describe their identity. That includes such terms as “Mexican” or “Cuban” or “Dominican,” for example. Just one-quarter (24%) say they use the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to most often to describe their identity. And 21% say they use the term “American” most often.
It looks like, then, that most Hispanics prefer racially identifying as “White” instead of “Hispanic” or “Other”, and this predilection hasn’t shifted much in the last couple of decades. The increases we see in both the racially white, ethnically Hispanic and the racially Hispanic, ethnically Hispanic are in part a function of the overall browning of the country [which must stop–they have to go back].
Still, it is surprising to see that the racially white, ethnically Hispanic contingent has grown faster than the racially Hispanic, ethnically Hispanic contingent has.
“Hispanic” as a racial identifier is problematic given that it’s not a race per se. “Amerindian” would be better, but in the US there is a perceived racial difference between the Spanish-speaking descendants of Aztecs working on roofs and the English-speaking descendants of the Navajo working in reservation casinos. This perceived difference is, dare I say, largely a social construct.
GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1)(15-16), HISPANIC(1)(2-50), YEAR