Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

45P Perceptions of Discrimination by Latinos In the United States

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Raymond Sanchez Mayers, PhD, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Fontaine H. Fulghum, PhD, Instructor, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Background and Purpose:

Research has shown that perceived discrimination is related to negative mental and physical outcomes such as stress and high blood pressure (references omitted for word count). More recent research has shown that, for Latinos discrimination also has a negative effect on income levels, educational attainment, and mental health outcomes, such as depression, for Latinos.

The purpose of this study was to examine prevalence, correlates, and predictors of perceptions of discrimination among Latinos in the United States.


This is a secondary analysis of the 2007 National Survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center. The study was a representative sample of 2,000 adult Latinos in the United States who were interviewed by telephone in English or Spanish from October 3 to November 9, 2007.

The dependent variable was a binary variable created from the question, “How often do any of the following things happen to you because of your racial or ethnic background… You are treated with less respect than other people?” (yes/no). We hypothesized that potential predictors of perceived discrimination included gender, age, education, level of income, marital status, employment status, being foreign born, citizenship status, and language proficiency in English.

Multivariate logistical regressions were used to model the relationship between perceived discrimination and explanatory variables. We also looked at Latino explanations of discrimination in American society. Finally, we looked at whether there were differences in perceived quality of life by those who reported discrimination.


In response to the question of whether , “…You are treated with less respect than other people, 63% (n=1,247) of the respondents said “yes”. Significant predictor variables included age (those 30-39 perceived more discrimination), education (those with less education perceived more discrimination), and income (those with less income perceived more discrimination). There were no statistically significant bivariate subgroup variations in perceived discrimination by English language proficiency, being foreign born, marital status, citizenship status, or employment status. As for explanations of this discrimination, 47.4% attributed it to language skills, and 21.4% to immigration status.

Further, a chi-square analysis found a statistically significant, though weak association between quality of life and discrimination perception. Of those who rated the quality of their lives as poor or only fair, 72.3% reported discrimination as opposed to 53.1% who reported the quality of their lives as excellent (X2 (3, N= 1974) = 42.490, p < .001, Cramer's V=.147).

Conclusions and Implications:

As the saying goes, “Perception is reality and real in its consequences”. The Latino population has increased significantly in the United States. Native anti-immigration sentiment often spreads to others who are citizens. Newscasts by some commentators helps spread negative feelings towards Hispanics. In addition, some states have passed harsh and punitive legislation ostensibly aimed at undocumented Latinos, but which affect all Latinos. The social work profession should take a more vigorous policy stance against these discriminatory policies. In addition, at the micro level, social workers should be alert to, and take measures to ameliorate, the social and emotional consequences of discrimination aimed at Hispanics.