A JSTOR search identified early use of Hispanic in the social science literature in the late 1930s, mainly referring to geography, with a major increase in use in the mid-1970s, which coincided with the official use to designate people of Spanish or Latin American origin. Latinos used in a classical sense dates back to the 18th century. It began to be used widely to refer to Latin American populations in the 1960s.


The term “Spanish origin,” which was used in 1970, could be used in addition to Hispanic or Latino.


See Castillo, 2003; Fears, 2003; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001; and Sachs, 2001. The term “Hispanic” at least invites an association with the Spanish language, which “Latino” cannot. For recent national evidence on adults’ preferences for the two panethnic labels, see Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002.


Sachs, 2001:1.


Choldin, 1986.


In response to political pressure in 1997, the terminology was officially modified to “Hispanic/Latino” and “not of Hispanic/Latino” origin.


The Census Bureau’s analysis of traditional identifiers, such as surname, using the results of Hispanic self-identification in the 1973 Current Population Survey, confirmed the undercount charges levied by the Inter-Agency Committee on Mexican American Affairs. Choldin, 1986:410, reports that in the Southwest, where the Spanish surname item was used, only 81 percent of those with Spanish surnames identified themselves as Hispanic, and only 74 percent of those who self-identified as Hispanic had Spanish surnames. However, results for the rest of the nation were even more problematic, as only 46 percent of persons with Spanish surnames self-identified as Hispanic, while 61 percent of persons who self-identified as Hispanic had Spanish surnames.


Technically, the 1970 census was the first to use a subjective Spanish origin identifier on a national basis, but the questionable wording, the number of response categories, the placement of the non-Spanish response, and the population coverage (asked of only 5 percent of households) yielded highly problematic results. See Bean and Tienda, 1987: Chapter 2.


See Bean and Tienda, 1987:Chapter 2; Choldin, 1986.


Race is clearly an important sorting mechanism throughout Latin America, producing a racial hierarchy, but in general race is not associated with the deep schisms found in mainstream U.S. society. See Telles, 2004.


Haney López, 2004.


Census dress rehearsals revealed that many non-Hispanics did not answer the Hispanic question when it was asked after the race question. This decision also was motivated by a desire to reduce nonresponse among whites.


Tafoya, 2004:6.


Telles, 2004.


Lee and Bean, 2004.


Portes and Rumbaut, 2001.


Portes and Rumbaut, 2001:Table 7-7.


Lee and Bean, 2004.


Stavans, 2003:3.

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