Friday, August 15, 2008

White is "some other race" according to Census?

Commenter Peter's insight from a previous post in which he pointed out that my estimate that 85% of Hispanics were choosing "white" as their race struck him as too high led me to look at it more closely. Given that I was estimating for affluent small cities, it seems reasonable to expect a greater proportion of Hispanics to have European features than do in the country as a whole.

My thought process wasn't that sophisticated, though. I was under the impression that 85-90% of Hispanics do choose "white" as their race in the Census. The Census QuickFacts page is a resource a use regularly for reference, and it suggests as much.

Nationally, the Census reports for '06 that whites (including Hispanics) represented 80.1% of the total population, while non-Hispanic whites comprised 66.4%. The difference is 13.7%, presumably accounted for entirely by Hispanics who chose "white" as their race. I presume this because the white, black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and two or more races categories sum to 100% of the national total--there is no "other" catchall category presented. Hispanics (14.8% of the total population) are falling into one of these categories, the vast majority (92.6%) being classified as white.

At the city level, however, QuickFacts does not include a non-Hispanic white classification. The other categories presented fall short of 100% when summed, with the difference presumably being made up by those who went with the "other" category (which is also not presented).

This NYT article reports that 97% of those who self-describe as members of some other race are Hispanic. The other category is, then, essentially a Hispanic category that represents 42% of the Hispanic total. The article also reports that 48% of Hispanics define themselves racially as being white (only 2% choose black, with the remainder choosing two or more races). Together, that represents 90% of Hispanics, awfully close to the percentage of Hispanics QuickFacts reports to be white at the national and state levels.

So it looks like unless an "other" category is explicitly presented or implicitly implied due to the stated categories not summing to 100% of the population, it should be assumed that Hispanics who elected "some other race" are being grouped in with those who've chosen white as their race.

It'd be less confusing if "Hispanic" could be an exclusive racial category, maybe "gold(en)" to go along with black and white. That wouldn't represent the diversity of the Latino community in the US, of course, so I'll perish the thought.


BGC said...

Hispanic ought to be categorized as Native American or American Indian, surely?

The majority of Hispanics are genetically much more Native American than the majority of self-styled Native Americans - Hispanics are just 'native' to a different part of the Americas.

Indeed, I think the failure to recognize Hispanics as Native Americans causes an enormous amount of confusion - at least it causes confusion outside of the USA, I don't know whether this point is tacitly known within the USA.

Outside the USA it would be assumed that Hispanics were essentially Spanish, but the gene studies I have seen show that (Chile and Argentina excepted) South Americans are mostly Native American.

One outcome of this more-correct classification is that it creates a whole new narrative of the history of the Americas. Initially the Native American population was almost completely displaced by Europeans in the North of the continent - then (over the past few decades) the North of the continent was recolonized by Native Americans.

Current mass immigration into the USA by Native Americans from the South of the continent is the bounce-back by the Native American population who suffered a temporary (few hundred year) setback.

On this narrative, the European colonization of the USA could look like an historical 'blip'.

Maybe this alternative 'Native American-centric' narrative is commonplace but I have never actually seen it anywhere.

Anyway the point is that Hispanics are Native Americans, yes? Or is culture more important than genes?

Steve Sailer said...

In the Census's set of 14 race categories, the Native American / American Indian designations are reserved for people descended from tribes located within the U.S.

There is no race category designated for anybody descended from Amerindians south of the American border.

Hence, millions of people put themselves down as "Other" on race.

Sleep said...

Plains Indians and other tribes from the 50 US states will never be happy being lumped in with Hispanics. Especially if the Hispanic proportion of the population rises to 40%, as is predicted by many current estimates, because then traditional Amerindians would be just 3% of the "Native American" category.

Never gonna happen.

Sleep said...

To answer the first post: yes, I think culture is more important than genes in this case. Or to put it another way: no, Hispanics are not native Americans; they're native Mexicans, native Puerto Ricans, native Guatemalans, et cetera. In my opinion, calling Hispanics "Native Americans" delegitimizes the USA-Indians' nativeness almost as much as it would if the whole category were renamed "Hispanics".

I'm not Native American or anything, I just am an American white person who can't accept the idea of merging Hispanics with anything else. I think that the status quo is fine.

Audacious Epigone said...


"Hispanic ought to be categorized as Native American or American Indian, surely?"

I've thought the same. It would make things clearer. They average similar IQs and have similar economic outcomes in the US. But the Native American/American Indian (2 million total in the US) category would be swamped by Hispanics, essentially making the NA/IA category what today is arrived at in a roundabout way for Hispanics.

Amerindians are not tacitly thought to be synonymous with Native Americans in popular culture. The former "gold" skinned natives are the ancestors of the three big pre-colonial American civilizations (Maya, Inca, Aztec). Native American history, by contrast, is popularly seen almost entirely as it relates to British (and then American) colonization and expansion.

Audacious Epigone said...

I responded to Bruce before reading Sleep's comments, so I'm echoing what he said (except that I'd find utility in categorizing Hispanics in a clearer way--maybe "Central or South American", if only Mexico was somehow included).


And when the Census presents data without an "other" represented, it lumps the category in with the white (including Hispanic) total.

Peter said...

I still find it very surprising that almost all the people who chose "other" are Hispanic. There are so many non-Hispanic groups in America today that don't fall into existing racial categories.

Audacious Epigone said...


A lot of those who don't seem to fit probably choose white or 2+ races.

Ron Guhname said...

According to the GSS, the following percent say they're white: 68.4% of Amerindians, 69.8% of Mex-Ams, 57.1% of Puerto Ricans, and 56.4% of "other Spanish."

I'm glad to see so many think it's not such a bad thing to be a Whitey.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks for that. The GSS numbers are higher than the US Census reports. Is that because the Census hits everyone, while illegal immigrants are probably underrepresented in the GSS? It's plausible that first generation Hispanics are less likely to consider themselves white than are more established Hispanics.