These categories are even more problematic. The Hispanic category is directly contrasted with the “race” classification that includes whites, Blacks, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Latinos are identified separately as an ethnicity; Latinos can be of any “race.” Thus, the census has racial group categories that include Latinos in the number of persons within each racial group (e.g., whites and Blacks) and racial group categories that exclude the portion of Latinos from the specific racial group (e.g., non-Hispanic whites).

The more recent U.S. census categories represent an attempt to better reflect the country’s increasing diversity. The 2000 census questionnaire is an improvement from the past in that it asks Americans whether they belong to one or more of some 14 “races” (though 4 are considered basic) or to some other race, and whether they are of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino ethnicity (of which there are 3 basic varieties and an additional fill-in-the-blank option).


Discussions about race can be seen as grounded in perceived biological and physical differences. Problems with this view are discussed in several recent Institute of Medicine reports (1999c, 2000) and in the anthropological and public health literature, as we will describe.

The concept of biological race is inconsistent with scientific data to the extent that “race” is not a useful shorthand for human variation (Goodman, 2001:34). Goodman notes that:

The first leap [of illogic] is a form of geneticization, the belief that most biology and behavior are located “in the genes”. . . . Genes, of course, are often part of the complex web of disease causality, but almost always a minor, unstable and insufficient cause. The presence of GM allotype, for example, might correlate to increased rates

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement