Among the proposed revisions, the potentially new Hispanic designation is receiving the most public scrutiny. Latino advocates worry that counts of Hispanic Americans might drop, while demographers and other researchers welcome the possible change.
“We tend to identify ourselves by how society responds to us,” said John Weeks, a demographer at San Diego State University. “I think allowing people in one question to give all their options is what we want. It’s the best possible approach.”
In past census counts, including the one in 2010, respondents were first asked whether or not they were Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin. Then they were asked to select a race, such as white, black, Asian or two or more races.
Nearly every person who self-identified as Hispanic went on to choose the white or some-other-race option because they didn’t know where they fit in racially, Weeks said.
Most Americans, he added, view race and ethnicity as the same thing despite legal and anthropological distinctions.Census Bureau officials do not expect a dramatic shift in results if the survey form changes, said Nicholas Jones, chief of the racial statistics branch at the Census Bureau. He said the outcome of an experimental census study conducted in 2010 — which had some changes to race and ethnicity labels — was similar to that of the traditional form.