Clarifying Census Figures on Latinos

March 31, 2003

 

New U.S. census data showing that Hispanics have edged past blacks may be somewhat misleading, says William Darity Jr., a research professor of public policy studies, African and African-American studies, and economics at Duke's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

" Many Hispanics in the U.S. are of African ancestry, particularly those from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, but our studies show that as a group, they rarely self-identify as black," says Darity. "The difference between self-classification and social classification of race is especially important to consider among Latinos. Census data provide only information on self-classification." As a result, the numbers do not accurately reflect the many Latinos who would be considered black by social classification.

Darity is co-author of two recent papers, "Passing on Blackness: Latinos, Race, and Earnings in the U.S.A." and "Bleach in the Rainbow: Latin Ethnicity and Preference for Whiteness." He also is Boshamer Professor of Economics and director of the Institute of African American Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.