US Latinos are more educated and better off than people realize


Ethnicity in the US is notoriously difficult for demographers to classify, and it’s getting tougher as the country becomes more diverse.

New research shows that Latinos, if categorized as such based on their birthplace and their parents’ and grandparents’ countries of origin rather than the ethnicity they self-identify with, are actually more educated than current US Census data suggest. And that means they may have a better quality of life than people realize.

“To some extent we’re understating the progress of later-generation Hispanics,” said Stephen Trejo, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who co-authored a recent working paper on the topic. “And we’re probably overstating the progress of Asians. But the question is how much.”

The working paper (pdf) published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that current demographic data leave out some second- and third-generation Hispanics because of the way they’re asked to self-identify on surveys. Many, particularly those of interracial or interethnic families, don’t always identify with their Latin heritage. It’s a phenomenon called “ethnic attrition,” in which people assimilate into different cultures and identify less with their ancestors’ ethnicities.


Read in Quartz