Census: Shift in how Hispanic/Latinx people identify

Many now consider themselves of two or more races

In recent weeks, PSRC has explored data on the growth of the Hispanic and Latinx population and some details of their demographics. The share of people who call themselves Hispanic/Latinx in the four-county region has increased over the last three decades. One in 10 residents now identifies with this ethnicity.

For our final blog post of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we’re looking at the racial categories chosen by these residents.

The Census Bureau asks about Hispanic/Latinx origin separately from race, so someone can be of any racial group and also identify as Hispanic or Latinx.

Locally, as well as at the national level, there’s been a shift in the racial identities chosen by Hispanic and Latinx people. PSRC analyzed how race identification has changed over the last three census periods.

In 2000 and 2010, nearly half (44%) of the region’s Hispanic/Latinx residents identified as white alone (“alone” is the Census term for single race). In the most recent census, only one in five did (20%).

At the same time, there has been a large change in the share of Hispanic/Latinx people who identify as two or more races.

In 2000 and 2010, about one in 10 identified this way. That number increased drastically with the 2020 Census, when a third of the region's Hispanic/Latinx population said they were of two or more races.

The share of people choosing other race options has not changed as much over the years. For example, 39% selected “Some Other Race Alone” in 2000 and 2010. That designation ticked up only two percentage points in 2020 (41%).

There are various reasons for the shifts in racial identity. One is that views on diversity have altered, and people who checked the white alone box in prior census years might now be more willing to identify with other races or as multiracial. Also, the Census Bureau is continually changing how they ask questions about race and ethnicity (and urges caution when making comparisons between census years).

Interestingly, the Census didn’t ask all households about Hispanic/Latinx origin until 1980. And only since 1960 have people been allowed to identify their own racial origins. Before that, census takers determined the races of the people they counted.

This data doesn’t easily reveal the varied experiences different ethnic groups in the Hispanic/Latinx community have in the region and how it shapes where they live, the opportunities they can access and the trajectory of their lives. However, it does highlight the need to address the unique barriers these communities face that depress their incomes and disproportionately push them into poverty.

VISION 2050 and our Regional Equity Strategy will equip jurisdictions with the tools they need to reduce the likelihood that race continues to shape the life outcomes of these residents. We look forward to working with our members to improve outcomes for our Hispanic/Latinx communities and the region as a whole.