U.S. Reps. Torres, Espaillat, and Clarke Push for Stronger, More Inclusive Census Race and Ethnicity Standards for Black Latino Populations

Apr 28, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) this week joined Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) in leading a comment letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and U.S. Census Bureau regarding the initial proposal to revise how the federal government collects data on race and ethnicity.

The comment letter also urges the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group) to ensure populations, particularly Black Latino communities, are not underreported.

“The U.S. Census Bureau has collected data on race since the first census in 1790 and on Hispanic or Latino origin since the 1970 Census. However, for too long the multifaceted experience of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States has not been adequately accounted for. In the 1930 Census, for example, ‘Mexican’ was the only option for a person to indicate they were Latino. In 1970, the Census made its first major attempt to accurately count the Latino population in the U.S. by asking a sample population, ‘Is this person’s origin or descent—’ with the response categories Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, Other Spanish, and ‘No, none of these.’ Since then, no changes have been made to address the multilayered identities and experiences of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States,” said the Members.

The last time the OMB changed these standards was in 1997, and the current status quo is not sustainable to defeat the undercount of Latinos in the United States in a matter that is inclusive and driven by whole data.

“As our Latino population increases, we must reconsider how we collect survey data not only from Latinos but also from the many others in our richly diverse U.S. society, including the growing population of individuals who are of mixed race and ethnicity. This is especially important for the US Census Bureau and for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), being that this federal entity mandates the racial and ethnic categories used in all federal surveys and statistical reporting. Getting these racial and ethnic categories right is critical because they guide policy and affect communities through federal funding allocations, congressional redistricting, state and local budgets, and data-driven business and research decisions,” the Members continued.

“We respectfully request that further testing be conducted that will involve more Afro-Latino populations as samples and to have meaningful engagement with Afro-Latino organizations and scholars that can help ensure the Black Latino count does not arbitrarily decrease further. Any alternate format must provide an accurate and effective way to categorize the nation’s growing Black Hispanic/Afro-Latino populations in ways that the existing two separate questions that ask for one’s race and ethnicity presently do… we suggest that any form that includes nationality as examples of racial categories, as the Census 2020 did, should not only be modified to include Latin American nations but also revise the Black category from ‘Black or African American’ to ‘Black or African American or Afro/Black Latino’ to invite Black Latinos to identify with the addition of pull-out nationalities. Such nationalities should also include nations traditionally considered to be part of Latin America, such as the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador etc. If Black Latino populations are properly tabulated and reported, it will be immensely powerful in identifying the racial disparities they experience distinctly from non-Black Latinos and strengthen civil rights enforcement,” the Members concluded.

Click here to read the Torres, Espaillat, and Clarke letter in its entirety.


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