The census does it right! Hispanic is NOT a race. There are many races within the Latino community, including White, Black, Native Indian, and even Asian. Some segments, like the Cuban community, show very few mixed-race individuals. In fact, Cubans exhibit a race discrimination behavior within their community that is similar to that of the general market. Other groups, like Puerto Ricans, are very mixed. Argentineans are mostly White and some Latin American countries, including Mexico, have a strong Native Indian background.

For years, however, the U.S. Census considered Hispanic a race. They changed that definition since before the 1970 census; and in 1977 the Office of Management and Budget issued the “Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting”. They established the U.S. racial classifications to be American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White. They added ethnic classifications of “Hispanic Origin” and “Not of Hispanic Origin”.

Unfortunately, we continue to see the race question in most market research studies and marketers in this country continue to label Hispanic as a race. The misconception that Hispanic is a race is so ingrained in this country that many Hispanics are confused themselves. This creates a big problem in marketing research, because many Latinos would check “Other” if “Hispanic” were not included in the race category. Yet, many Hispanics would check “White” or “Black” and not “Hispanic”, if “Hispanic” was included as a category. A way of avoiding this problem is to divide the question like the census does and to pay close attention to how the questions are worded.  A better approach is to not bother asking about race at all.

 For further information on race segmantation see the post Let's Stop Segmenting People by Race on the Latino Opinion blog.