Ex-Census Director Kenneth Prewitt Tears Racial Categories Apart

Latinos Who Don't Get A Race On The Census

The debate over how to classify Latinos and other ethnic groups for Census purposes has wandered into nonsensical territory, former Census Director Kenneth Prewitt argued Thursday in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Latinos are a multiracial ethnicity based on Latin American or Hispanic birth or ancestry, but that hasn’t stopped the Census Bureau from debating whether to classify the group as a race. Prewitt tears the Census racial categories apart in Thursday’s essay, which advocates that the Census Bureau take a much more nuanced view based on ethnicity and nationality.

Here’s what he had to say about Hispanics in particular:

Fast-growing population groups -- mixed-race Americans, those with “hyphenated” identities, immigrants and their children, anyone under 30 -- increasingly complain that the choices offered by the census are too limited, even ludicrous. Particularly tortured is the Census Bureau’s designation, since 1970, of “Hispanic” as an ethnicity or origin, thereby compelling Hispanics to also choose a “race.” In 2010, Hispanics were offered the option to select more than one race, but 37 percent opted for “some other race” -- a telling indicator that the term itself is the problem.

The problem, as we’ve pointed out in the past, is that most Latinos have a mixed-race heritage, primarily European-indigenous or European-black. But it doesn’t stop there. Any Latino can be any race, or any combination thereof.

To illustrate the point that Prewitt’s getting at, check out the slideshow above of four groups of Latinos who don’t get to pick a race on the Census.