When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity

Apr 04, 2012

It has been nearly four decades since the United States government mandated the use by federal agencies of the terms "Hispanic" or "Latino" to categorize Americans who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, but the labels still haven't been fully embraced by the group to which they have been affixed.

Only about one-quarter (24%) of Hispanic adults say they most often identify themselves by "Hispanic" or "Latino," according to a new nationwide survey of Hispanic adults by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. About half (51%) say they identify themselves most often by their family's country or place of origin-using such terms as Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran or Dominican. And 21% say they use the term "American" most often to describe themselves. The share rises to 40% among those who were born in the U.S.

By a ratio of more than two-to-one, survey respondents say that the more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S. have many different cultures rather than a common culture. Respondents do, however, express a strong, shared connection to the Spanish language. More than eight-in-ten Latino adults say they speak Spanish, and nearly all say it is important for future generations to continue to do so.

Hispanics are also divided over how much of a common identity they share with other Americans. Just under half say they consider themselves to be very different from the typical American. And just one-in-five say they use the term "American" most often to describe their identity.

Read the full report, When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity, on the Pew Hispanic Center's website.

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