ScienceBlog recently reported on a new study that finds that darker-skin Latinos earn less money on average than light-skin Latinos. While some wish to be accepted as “white,” many experience discrimination based on skin color:
The results suggest that the rapid influx of Latino immigrants will shift the boundaries of race in the United States, but will not end skin-color-based discrimination.
“It is likely we will see change in our racial categories, but there will not be one uniform racial boundary around all Latinos,” said Reanne Frank, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
“Some Latinos will be successful in the bid to be accepted as ‘white’ — usually those with lighter skin. But for those with darker skin and those who are more integrated into U.S. society, we believe there will be a new Latino racial boundary forming around them.”
In filling out surveys, separate questions about race and ethnicity have become increasingly challenging for Latinos to answer:
Under the current census form, Hispanics and Latinos have been set apart as an ethnic group and are instructed to choose the race that best fits them. The 2000 Census had six categories, and the 2010 Census has 15 categories, but “Latino or Hispanic” is not one of the options.
“We are hearing stories from Census takers that many Latinos say the race question does not fit them. They are confused by why they can’t label their race as ‘Hispanic or Latino,’” Frank said.
In the 2000 Census, about 50 percent of those who marked “Hispanic or Latino” as their ethnicity chose “some other race” as their racial category. That has been interpreted by many researchers as them attempting to assert an alternative Latino racial identity, she said.
Thus, Frank suggests the emergence of Latino as a new racial classification in the U.S. as opposed to an ethnic identity:
“We believe the more-integrated immigrants have faced discrimination in the country, and realize that ‘white’ is not an identity that is open to them. They may be trying to develop a new alternative Latino racial category,” Frank said.
“It appears that some with lighter skin will be able to pass as white, but others with darker skin will not and will continue to face discrimination.”
Frank said it is not possible at this time to tell what proportion of Latino immigrants will be accepted as white, and how many will be forced into a new racial category.