New report finds 6 percent of Latinos reject calling themselves Hispanic, Latino or Spanish

LatinaLista — It’s an old story. Report after report always shows that Latino immigrants make themselves “sick” assimilating into U.S. society by adopting fastfood habits, workaholic lifestyles, etc. Now comes news that there are some Latino immigrants who are literally losing themselves in their quest to be all-American.

Recent research by Amon Emeka and Jody Agius Vallejo, assistant professors of sociology in USC Dornsife, found that some Latinos are choosing not to identify themselves as Latinos on U.S. Census surveys.

Looking at the U.S. Census’ 2006 American Community Survey, the professors discovered a disappointing revelation:

As Emeka and Agius Vallejo demonstrate, of approximately 44.1 million U.S. residents who declared Hispanic or Latin American ancestry in the survey that year, 2.5 million — or 6 percent — did not check the Hispanic box and thus do not ethnically identify as Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.

While some would cheer that small display of assimilation, it’s bad news for researchers and the Latino community as a whole. Because these 2.5 million want to be seen as wholly American versus Latino, researchers can’t accurately assess progress, accomplishments, challenges — and most importantly, population growth.

Though it’s important that everyone know and feel they are American, it’s equally important to acknowledge each of our distinct heritages. Not so it can divide us among ourselves but so it can help us — from determining how medicines affect us differently to which diseases we are more susceptible to even how to address different learning styles and gauging political influence.

Whether we like to admit it or not, our differences, which make us unique, also set us up for unique outcomes and challenges not shared by Anglos, Blacks, Asians or Native Americans. By not acknowledging who we are, besides being Americans, we do ourselves a disservice.

The researchers found that of all Latinos who are more prone to reject the Latino label, it’s U.S.-born Latinos, those with mixed ancestries, those who don’t speak Spanish and those who identify more with being Black or Asian.

“Scholars and politicians question whether and to what extent Latinos are assimilating. Some Latinos are not identifying as Latino and disappearing into the population,” Agius Vallejo said. “People with Latin American ancestry who do not identify as Hispanic may be a harbinger of future patterns of assimilation but because these people are left out we might be underestimating the extent to which Latinos are assimilating into America’s core social structures.”

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3 Comments

  1. Susan said:

    Your argument falls flat because the Latino category is too broad to be effective. I am of Mexican descent and everytime I see statistics about “Latinos” I doubt them because I know that Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, etc. are also in the category and they have a different history, culture, political policies, etc

  2. Remington said:

    Hispanic for a U.S. born citizen is simply denoting Spanish-American ancestry. We do not label all nationalities – i.e. Italian-American, German-American, or French-American. So why would a U.S. citizen with French-American, German-American, and Spanish-American choose to only identify as “Spanish-American”, i.e. Hispanic. It does not make sense since they are simply American. “Spanish-American” is simply White or Caucasian. If you were ONLY Spanish then maybe, but even then they are simply “White” once they have lost their culture.

    If it made sense to track origins by nationality then we should break-up the entire White, Black, and Asian races. But we do not. Why? Because the reason why we need to track ethnicity is to appropriate funds for integration. Once integration is complete we will no longer need to track ethnicity and “Hispanic” will become what they always were – “White”.

    Thus, if anything, by identifying as “White” a Spanish-American is doing a SERVICE by essentially indicating that they are fully integrated and no need to appropriate additional funds.

    Furthermore, in the future, it is likely that  Spanish people born and raised in America will be fully integrated and at such a point in time the “Hispanic” ethnicity will likely cease to exist. My guess is this will either happen in the U.S. Census 2030-2050. “Ethnicity” has always done this in America – look at how Irish, Italian, and Jews are all just white today.

    • Marisa said:

      I agree with most of what you say Remington but I don’t agree that Latinos will feel so integrated as to not claim Latino as an ethnicity. Third and fourth generations don’t do that now. They may claim being “American” first but pride in Latino heritage is more lasting than what has happened with other cultures, for a simple reason. The proximity to Mexico and South America is a lot closer than Europe and there are enough cultural observations within families/extended families to keep that connection alive and foster pride in it.

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