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Shedding Light on Race Reporting Among Hispanics

Fri Mar 28 2014
Merarys Ríos-Vargas, Fabián Romero
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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

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The table below shows the racial classification of Hispanics who self-reported their Hispanic origin in the 2010 Census.

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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.  

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The 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.”

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The 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.

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