Non-Hispanics of Latin American Ancestry: Assimilation, Race, and Identity among Latin American Descendants in the U.S.

Amon Emeka, University of Southern California
Jody Agius-Vallejo, University of Southern California

In the 2006 American Community survey (ACS), 6% of respondents with Latin American ancestry answered ‘no’ when asked whether they were Hispanic themselves. Conventional definitions of the Hispanic population exclude such respondents as ‘not Spanish/Hispanic/ Latino’ even though they are self-identified Latin American descendants. Since their exclusion may bias our assessments of Hispanic social mobility, it is important to know more about them. Non-Hispanic identification is most common among Latin American descendants who 1) list both Latin American and non-Latin American ancestries, 2) speak only English, and 3) identify as White, Black, or Asian when asked about their ‘race.’ Ancestry and racial identity are considerably more influential than respondents’ education, income, place of birth, or place of residence. These findings support both traditional straight-line assimilation and a more recent “racialized assimilation” theory in explaining discrepant responses to the ethnicity and ancestry questions among Latin American descendants.

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Presented in Session 101: Demography of the United States Latino Population