Why is Hispanic/Latino apparently the only ethnicity in the universe?

In the US, almost every form I see, whether it be job, university, scholarship, or standardized test booklet that collects demographic data has a race field, these include East Asian, Black, White, etc. And then there’s the ethnicity field… which usually has two checkboxes “Hispanic/Latino” and “Non-Hispanic/Latino”.

Obviously Hispanic/Latino isn’t the only ethnic group that exists, there are tons of them all over the world (albeit there seems to be disagreement about what exactly constitutes a full “ethnic group”). So why are they the only ones listed? I assume “political lobbying” is the short answer, but what’s the full story? And why is there an ethnicity field anyway (I assume that’s part of the same story)?

The answer is exactly as obvious as it appears. The proximity of the border with Mexico has allowed huge Hispanic populations to live in the southwest since before the area was part of the U.S. They were subject to enormous discrimination from Anglos. In other areas, Cubans or Puerto Ricans or other groups were treated similarly.

Although large numbers of immigrants from other countries came to the U.S in the era before immigration was largely cut off in 1924, those were mostly assimilated and politically equal by the post WWII period. Hispanics were not treated equally, and were in many ways subject to discrimination virtually equivalent to the ways blacks were treated. In the responses to the dawning civil rights movement, it appeared to make sense for those who were fighting discrimination to distinguish, count, and classify Hispanics and blacks in roughly similar ways, since the remedies could be applied in roughly similar ways.

Whether that was a correct way to handle the situation or if there was any other way to handle the situation is not a GQ question.

Since any answer to this question inevitably involves politics, let’s move this to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

I’ve never seen that. “Hispanic” is always listed in the same race/ethnicity column as “Black” and “White, Not of Hispanic Descent,” IME.

In your experience maybe, but when I applied for food stamps a few months back I faced that choice. A quick search reveals it’s not terribly uncommon.

It is listed on the form as an ethnicity because it is not a race. Some Hispanics are entirely or largely of European descent, whereas others are largely of Amerindian descent, and perhaps there are others besides. (Do Filipinos count as Hispanics? I am not sure.)

However, while not all ethnicities are necessarily races, I should have thought that all races are ethnicities (allowing for the rather vague, unscientific parameters of both terms), so I don’t really know why you are not simply presented with a list of ethnicities, but allowed to check more than one (or, at least, be able to check at least one other if you check Hispanic).

Because Hispanic people seem to be the only ethnic group that spans racial boundaries and gets upset being lumped in with one race or another. And they don’t like their ethnicity being called a race.

The point in having them in two columns is so a Hispanic person can call themselves black Hispanic or white Hispanic, instead of being assumed to be one or the other.

Not in the most important forms. For example, in the US Census, Hispanic/Non-Hispanic is a different question from Race.

As for answering the OP’s question, it’s because it’s the only ethnicity, as opposed to race, for which there was continuing widespread discrimination at the time those forms were first being written. Others, such as anti-Irish prejudice, had mostly died out by the 1960s.

This is pretty much it. These kinds of statistics and questionnaires are as much political as they are anthropological, probably more so. I’m waiting for they day when I can get “bonus points” on my application for that job or academic program for being Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch, a descendant of illiterate Kentucky hillbillies, descended from British Loyalists who lost their loyalty and headed back to the US when economic conditions turned out not as good as they had hoped, and, oh, I think I have some Scots Highlander ancestry in there somewhere too. FREEDOM (and affirmative action points)!

Gonna need some cites on that. My experience matches BrainGlutton’s.

And I know a guy from Maine who is of at least partial Acadian (French Canadian from the Maritime Provinces) ancestry and has a French last name. He ain’t ever gonna get any affirmative action points for that here in the US, even though it is a real minority group in Canada, simply because Acadians, Cajuns, and other French-descended cultures in the US are simply not considered to be particularly advantaged or disadvantaged in economic or social matters. Maybe he could emigrate to Canada and get some sort of minority scholarship, but he probably needs to brush up his French first.

Is that fair? Depends on your definition of “fair”. Seems the government has set the categories just the way they want them.

I live in the south west and I’ve NEVER seen that on any application. If it happens, it’s got to be vanishingly rare to the point of pink unicorn-ness. If the OP has seen it, all I can think of is that it was for some vertical job requiring not only Spanish speakers but people of Hispanic origin as well (maybe for some sort of tour guide or as a greeter in a Hispanic oriented restaurant or something??). It’s certainly not taking over, and it’s certainly not ‘the only ethnicity in the universe’.

I live in Arizona, I’ve looked at/filled out over 50 job applications (and not even cashier stuff, in bachelor-level technical fields) and it’s been on over 90% of them. It’s also been on every new-hire form I’ve filled out at the University here when I was employed as a TA and grader. Not only that, but it was common on the standardized tests here (AIMS and such). It’s usually under the “U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Information” section of forms.

ETA: Here’s an application for Rincon Research Corporation in Tucson, for instance; which is mostly government contract work for Digital Signal Processing and such


They seem to simply want to determine whether someone IS of Hispanic origin, not that it’s the ‘only ethnicity in the universe’. Not sure WHY they want it, but it’s not saying that Hispanics are the only ethnicity. And there is a ‘race’ section (which, to me is equally spurious) right below that.

Really? Wow - I think every government related form I can remember in the past couple of decades has had the “Hispanic/Non-Hispanic” section as well as the “Race” section. Here are examples from a quick GIS search:

[li]2010 US Census form [/li][li]ATF Firearms Transaction Record form[/li][li]Generic Voter Resgistraion[/li][li]Uniform Residential Loan Application[/li][/ul]


You do realize that the “only ethnicity in the universe” thing was a joke, right? I was poking at the fact that there are clearly more ethnicities and was questioning why only Hispanic/Latino showed up on the forms (keep in mind this was started in GQ, I wasn’t angry about it, I was wondering how the sparse ethnicity section came to be and why it was, well, so sparse).

No, I didn’t read it as a joke. And I guess I haven’t been keeping up, or I simply filter it out when they ask a question about being Hispanic, since I am Hispanic. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that before, to be honest, but since I’ve been shown 4 examples now it’s clear I’ve missed it.

Because they’re just that awesome?

And never forget it!