How Census questions muddle race and ethnicity for Latinos

Sociologist Richard Alba explains how the Census does not accurately capture racial and ethnic change:

Sticking with the two-question format means that the great majority of young people with mixed Hispanic and white origins will be categorized only as Hispanic — and therefore as “nonwhite,” in census terminology. This classification will often contradict how they perceive and experience their identity, and how they’re treated by the world around them.

And it is sociological nonsense. A growing body of data reveals that individuals from mixed families look more like whites than they do like minorities — except for those who are partly black. The exception demonstrates, it should be emphasized, the persistent and severe racism that confronts Americans with visible African heritage.

 

And these measurements then affect projections for the future as well as political reactions:

And classifying those from mixed Hispanic and white families as “nonwhites” results in Census Bureau population projections of a majority-minority society by the mid-2040s. But such projections are grossly misleading because of the binary thinking that undergirds them and the misclassification of individuals who are partly white and partly minority…

In the 2016 presidential election, according to research Michael Tesler has reported here at The Monkey Cage, President Trump appears to have gained many votes from whites because of their anxiety about a rapidly changing society that would soon leave them as part of a minority.

At the least, we should keep in mind that racial and ethnic definitions can and do change over time due to a variety of factors: understandings within particular groups (self-understanding), understandings from other groups in society (pressures from the outside, particularly dominant groups), and how race and ethnicity are measured.

This could also raise questions about forecasts for the future of society – especially decades out. On one hand, we want to be able to prepare for changes and trends. On the other hand, demographic trends and shifts in behaviors and attitudes are not set in stone. Both researchers and leaders need to be flexible – or in terms of one of the current buzzwords, resilient  – enough to adapt.

“5 Reasons That Hispanic Homeownership Will Define Housing’s Future”

Where will the housing market turn in the near future? A new report suggests a move toward Latinos:

1. Hispanic Homeownership – Since 2000, the number of Hispanic owner households has increased from 4.242 million to 6.810 million, a rise of 60.54 percent; in just the last four years, in fact, Hispanic owner households have risen 614,000.

2. Hispanic Households – When we extend our parameters to overall households, the numbers are even more stunning. In 2014, the number of Hispanic households grew by 320,000, or 40 percent of total U.S. household growth.

3. The Hispanic Population – Since 1970, the Hispanic population has increased by 592 percent. No, that is not a typo! Even more, the Hispanic population is expected to reach 120 million by 2050, more than double what it is today.

4. Hispanics in the Labor Force – Thus far in the new millennium, Hispanics have accounted for 65 percent of the growth in the U.S. labor force, and every year, one million U.S.-born Latinos enter adulthood; with numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Hispanic purchasing power is $1.5 trillion, and is projected to grow to $2.0 trillion by 2020 (that’s an increase of $500 billion!).

5. Hispanics in Housing – Sixty-five percent of top agents NAHREP surveyed expected 2015 to be a “breakout year” for Hispanic homeownership, but NAHREP’s report pulled no punches on the considerable barriers that remain for homebuyers, among them a lack of affordable housing, competition from cash investors and tight lending standards – problems will have to be overcome before homeownership can truly take off.

Reasons #2-4 involve demographics: an increasing population leading to more households and workers. Reasons #1 and 5 address more Hispanics getting involved in the housing market: an increasing number of owners, optimism from realtors, and factors limiting even more Hispanics from owning homes.

The demographics are suggestive but the evidence in reasons #1 and 5 is limited. Census figures from the last quarter of 2014 suggest there is still a long ways to go: the homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white alones was 72.3% but only 44.5% for Hispanic (of any race) and 42.1% for Black alone. A growing population and jobs alone are not enough; homeownership often involves consistently good jobs and wealth as well as access to capital and housing at cheaper levels of the housing market where homeowners can get a start.

Growing Latino populations in American cities

Latinos constitute a growing share of American urban populations, raising implications for future political races:

While many cities are experiencing an influx of young whites, those gains are more than offset by the continuing exodus of working- and middle-class whites. The result is a net decline nationwide of the white share of city populations.

Hispanic ascendance is apparent in both cities and suburbs, increasing the likelihood of the election of Latinos to local, state and federal office.

Over time, blacks stand to lose leverage. Cities have been a crucial base of power for African-American politicians. Insofar as the black population becomes diffuse, black leaders will have to grapple with a decline in black-majority districts, especially city council districts, in cities with declining black populations…

Frey pointed toward the rapidly increasing strength of the Latino vote in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of city dwellers in such areas who are Hispanic grew to 26 percent from 17 percent; and the share of suburban residents who are Hispanic rose to 17 percent from 8 percent.

Some striking demographic changes that have potential consequences in areas like politics. The changes are numerous: an influx of younger, educated whites into city centers even as whites leave other areas of cities; an increase in the suburbanization of blacks; and growing Latino populations in both cities and suburbs. These changes may not quickly become apparent in the political landscape but should at least draw the attention of political operators. For example, is incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel really in danger in the run-off election? Given the demographic changes in large cities like Chicago, perhaps.

The historical emergence of the category Hispanic in the United States

A sociologist with a new book titled Making Hispanics discusses how the category came about:

How did this movement start?

It was the activists who first went to the Census Bureau and said, ‘You have got to create a category. You have got to distinguish us from whites.’ Up until that time, the Census Bureau mainly grouped Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans in the same category as Irish and Italian, and that became a real problem because it couldn’t show the government the poverty rates between Mexicans and whites. There was pushback on how large and how broad the category could be, but ultimately, a Hispanic category was established.

How was the category sold to Latin Americans?

The Census Bureau asked activists and the Spanish-language media to promote the category. The media created documentaries and commercials. There was even a Telethon where people called in, and were encouraged to identify as Hispanic on the Census form. We can see why the media executives were so happy and so quick to help the Census Bureau because, later on, it became in their interests to help grow that cooperation.

Why was that?

Until that time, Spanish-language media executives had been creating separate television stations and programming for Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. Suddenly they were able to start using some of this broad Census data and go to advertisers like McDonald’s and Coca Cola and say, ‘Look, we’re a national Hispanic community and our consumer needs are different so invest in us and we will get you Hispanic consumer dollars.’ With that strategy, they were able to connect stations across the country, and over time, create a Spanish-language McDonald’s commercial that could broadcast to a national audience…

Weren’t there enough Mexican Americans to warrant their own category?

In the 1970s, this was fine if you wanted to capture the California governor’s attention, but it wasn’t enough for capturing President Nixon or President Ford’s attention, and it certainly wasn’t enough for capturing the attention of East Coast politicians because many of them had never even met a Mexican. But when activists were able to cite the number of Cubans in Florida, Puerto Ricans in New York, Salvadorans in DC and Mexicans in the Southwest, and when they were able to argue that these groups were all connected and were all in need of resources for job training programs and bilingual education, then they were onto something. It was only then that activists could get federal attention – by making Latin American groups seem like part of a national constituency.

Interesting blend of an emerging presence in the United States, developing Census definitions, and new marketing and media opportunities. This is another reminder of the fluidity of racial and ethnic categories in the United States and the various influences shaping those categories.

Texas is America’s future?

A libertarian economist argues Texas is a bright spot for America’s future:

Since 2000, 1 million more people have moved to Texas from other states than have left.

As an economist and a libertarian, I have become convinced that whether they know it or not, these migrants are being pushed (and pulled) by the major economic forces that are reshaping the American economy as a whole: the hollowing out of the middle class, the increased costs of living in the U.S.’s established population centers and the resulting search by many Americans for a radically cheaper way to live and do business.

To a lot of Americans, Texas feels like the future. And I would argue that more than any other state, Texas looks like the future as well — offering us a glimpse of what’s to come for the country at large in the decades ahead. America is experiencing ever greater economic inequality and the thinning of its middle class; Texas is already one of our most unequal states. America’s safety net is fraying under the weight of ballooning Social Security and Medicare costs; Texas’ safety net was built frayed. Americans are seeking out a cheaper cost of living and a less regulated climate in which to do business; Texas has that in spades. And did we mention there’s no state income tax?

There’s a bumper sticker sometimes seen around the state that proclaims, I WASN’T BORN IN TEXAS, BUT I GOT HERE AS FAST AS I COULD. As the U.S. heads toward Texas, literally and metaphorically, it’s worth understanding why we’re headed there — both to see the pitfalls ahead and to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that await us if we make the journey in an intelligent fashion.

Joel Kotkin would likely agree. A few thoughts after reading the full story:

1. There are several examples of people moving to Texas from California or the Northeast and finding that they really like Texas. But, the examples tend to emphasize Austin, a city known for plenty of cultural amenities. With its culture, UT-Austin campus, and tech companies, Austin looks like a cool place for the creative class. What about the other major areas in Texas? Why not stories about moving to Houston and Dallas, bigger cities and metropolitan areas with their own industries (oil, etc.)? How representative of Texas is Austin?

2. There is little discussion in the story about Latino residents. The primary focus in on Americans who have moved to Texas from other states but what about the influx of immigrants from Mexico? How are they doing? Are there some differences in their experiences as a whole versus those who are held up as successes in the article?

3. This is another article in a long line of opinions about which American state best represents the country or provides a glimpse into the future. What about California, a more progressive melting pot? What about the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, home to a number of the wealthiest counties in the United States? How about Illinois, held up in a more negative light in recent years for pension woes, too many governments/taxing bodies, bullish politicians, foreclosures, and violent crime? Perhaps we should look to Florida, specifically at the diversity in the Miami area or the aging population throughout the state? I realize people are interested in spotting trends but it is hard to select ideal types from 50 states and hundreds of big cities.

4. The story plays out Texas’ connections to the American pioneer and frontier story. This works but there is also a different culture and set of social norms in Texas. Even if business is thriving and people are moving in, does this necessarily mean many Americans would want to act or live like Texans? Is it all simply about a decent job and affordable housing? Yes, everyone may be American but outsiders and Texans themselves will tell you that the state is a land onto itself.

The changing definition and use of “Latino”

Here is a quick recap of how American society has defined and used the term Latino in recent decades:

If all ethnic identities are created, imagined or negotiated to some degree, American Hispanics provide an especially stark example. As part of an effort in the 1970s to better measure who was using what kind of social services, the federal government established the word “Hispanic” to denote anyone with ancestry traced to Spain or Latin America, and mandated the collection of data on this group. “The term is a U.S. invention,” explains Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “If you go to El Salvador or the Dominican Republic, you won’t necessarily hear people say they are ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic.’?”

You may not hear it much in the United States, either. According to a 2012 Pew survey, only about a quarter of Hispanic adults say they identify themselves most often as Hispanic or Latino. About half say they prefer to cite their family’s country of origin, while one-fifth say they use “American.” (Among third-generation Latinos, nearly half identify as American.)

The Office of Management and Budget defines a Hispanic as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race” — about as specific as calling someone European.

“There is no coherence to the term,” says Marta Tienda, a sociologist and director of Latino studies at Princeton University. For instance, even though it’s officially supposed to connote ethnicity and nationality rather than race — after all, Hispanics can be black, white or any other race — the term “has become a racialized category in the United States,” Tienda says. “Latinos have become a race by default, just by usage of the category.”

A good discussion throughout. And, the definition and usage of the term Latino or Hispanic is likely to change in decades to come. All together, it suggests racial and ethnic categories can be quite fluid based on a whole host of social factors.

Housing markets could benefit from Latinos who want to buy their first homes

The executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals says many Latinos want to purchase homes:

Q: Your report (“The State of Hispanic Homeownership” at NAHREP.org), assembles data from a number of private and governmental sources, and contends that the number of Hispanic homeowners has grown to 6.69 million in 2012 from 4.24 million in 2000 and that they represented 51 percent of the total net increase of 694,000 owner-households in the United States in 2012. Considering the nation’s economic circumstances, that sounds pretty good. Yet, you say they’re facing head winds?

A: Even to our surprise, Hispanic homeowners seem to be very resilient, especially coming off the (housing) crisis. Affordability is at an all-time high and a lot of Hispanics have jumped into the market recently. Some of the biggest factors in this are household formation, income trends and overall consumer confidence. They’re forming households at a faster rate than the general population. If you look at the market of Hispanic households, they’re much more likely to be made up of a husband and wife with children, (an arrangement that’s) much more aligned with the purchase of a home.

But there are a couple of major barriers to this trend continuing, and though difficulty in accessing mortgage credit is an important one, even more important right now is the lack of inventory of houses for sale…

The fulfillment of this scenario of Hispanics being a dominant force in future homebuying will require the industry to be able to adapt to cultural nuances. And basically, NAHREP is saying the industry isn’t there yet. Twelve years ago, when we started this organization, we were selling a vision that few people bought into. It’s not really like that anymore — the major players in housing now understand, or are starting to understand, how important the Latino market is.But there are nuances to working with the Hispanic market — there’s language, of course, and the likelihood of so-called “thin” credit files (that limit access to mortgages) within a culture where having debt is not a desirable thing.

The housing market could benefit from such a reservoir of buyers. For example, those baby boomers who want to unload their homes in the near future may just want to access possible Latino buyers. Plus, the one cited figure above seems to suggest that some of the uptick in housing in the country can be attributed to Latinos. But, assuming different groups in the United States want to or perhaps more importantly can, given the wealth differences in the United States, purchase homes is not a given. There are still big gaps in homeownership rates by race and ethnicity.

It would be interesting to hear how real estate agents and others in the real estate industry are really adjusting their methods for potential Latino customers.