Time to drop ‘Hispanic’ term?

Hispanic? Latino? When it comes to describing themselves, most Hispanics prefer to identify themselves by their family’s country of origin rather than either of those two pan-ethnic  terms, a new Pew survey finds.

Just over half (51 percent) say that most often use their family’s country of origin (such as Mexican, Cuban or Dominican) to describe their identity, according to the Pew Hispanic Center report.  Just one-quarter (24 percent) use the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino.” Twenty-one percent use the term “American.”

The U.S. government mandated the use of the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” in 1976 after a number of years of lobbying by Mexican-American and Hispanic organizations, according to Pew.

“The use of the terms ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ to describe Americans of Spanish origin or descent is unique to the U.S. and their meaning continue to change and evolve. Outside of the U.S., these terms are not widely used (National Research Council, 2006) and may also have different meanings,” the Pew reported noted.

Despite the formal definition, the U.S. Census Bureau allows people to self-report their ethnicity – someone is Hispanic or Latino if they self-identify as such. The 2010 census counted 50.5 million Hispanics.

According to the Pew report, about half of Hispanics say they consider themselves to be very different from the typical American. And regardless of where they were born, large majorities of Latinos say that life in the U.S. is better than in their family’s country of origin.

The survey of 1,220 Latino adults was conducted in both English and Spanish from Nov. 9 through Dec. 7. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

You can read the full report here.

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