Abstract: Factors of Racial Self-Classification Among Ethnically Diverse Latinx Adults (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Factors of Racial Self-Classification Among Ethnically Diverse Latinx Adults

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Victor Figuereo, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Rocio Calvo, PhD, Associate Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Robert Rosales, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, Brown University, Providence, RI
David Takeuchi, PhD, Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background/Purpose: According to the last available decennial Census estimates from 2010, over half of Latinxs self-classify as “white”, one-third as “Some other race” and less than three precent as “Black”. Census data also reveals that racial self-classification varies by ethnic group, whereby Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are more likely to identify as “Black” than other ethnic groups. Previous studies further suggest racial formation differences in the U.S. and Latin America, skin color, acculturation, nativity and socioeconomic status influence how Latinx individuals report their race. However, there is little knowledge on how factors of racial self-classification may differ by ethnic group. In this study, we examined whether immigration and socioeconomic status factors influence racial self-classification among Latinx adults with Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican heritage.

Methods: We used multi-wave extant data from the National Health Interview Survey (2010-2018) to conduct analyses on a pooled sample of Latinx adults (N=34,126). First, we performed descriptive statistics to describe the socio-demographic profiles of the total,, “white”, “Black”, and “Other” Latinx respondent samples. Second, we performed multinomial logistic regressions to examine the relationships between our primary independent variables (immigrant status, poverty level, and education) and racial self-classification outcomes (“Black” race vs. “white” and “Other” race vs. “white”), while controling for age, sex, cohabitation/marital status, citizenship, U.S. region, and survey year. Third, we performed subgroup analyses using the same multinomial regressions by ethnic group (Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican).

Results: Among the total Latinx sample group, U.S.-born respondents, compared to their recently immigrated counterparts, had significantly higher odds of self-classifying as “Black” over “white” (RRR=1.48, 95% CI [1.03-2.15]). Subgroup analyses showed that factors of “Black” self-classification differed by ethnic group. For instance, immigrant status significantly predicted “Black” self-classification only among Puerto Rican respondents. Continental U.S.-born Puerto Ricans, compared to their island-born peers, had higher odds of self-classifying as “Black” (RRR=2.61, 95% CI [1.28–5.32]). With the exception of Dominicans, being under 100% of the federal poverty line was significantly associated with Black self-classification for Cuban (RRR=6.82, 95% CI [2.26–20.54]) and Puerto Rican respondents (RRR=2.12, 95% CI [1.26–3.56]). Neither immigrant status, poverty level or education were significantly associated with “Black” self-classification among Mexican respondents.

Conclusions and Implications: This study demystifies the racial homogeneity of U.S. Latinxs. Growing up in the U.S. and experiencing poverty may shape Latinxs’ preference for “Black” self-classification. Due to the development of anti-Black skin color hierarchies during the colonization histories in Latin America, recently immigrated Latinxs may have a preference for “white” self-classification over “Black” because of internalized ideologies and practices that value whiteness (i.e., Blanquemiento). Ethnic group differences in predictors of racial self-classification may further reflect the differential impact of racialization of Latinxs in the U.S. We recommend future studies focusing on Latinx identity account for variables that measure racial ideology and multidimensional measures of racial identity.