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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Assessing the impact of U.S. Census changes

Written by: Miah Duncan 🇺🇸

The Demographic section for an application on Nov.7, 2022 (Alexa Figueroa)

For the first time, The U.S. Census has created categories on their survey to gain an accurate understanding of how many people identify as Hispanic or Latino, Middle Eastern, and North African. 

As of 2023, 10.6% of the population at the University of Maryland is Latino, 12.9% is Black or African American, and 23.8% is Asian per data from the UMD Undergraduate Student Profile. 

“For a long time, I have had to put White as my ethnicity on documents because that was what I was told I fell under,” said Marwa Barakat, a junior at UMD who identifies as Middle Eastern. “But in society, nobody looks at me and considers me to be White. I think it prevents people from this region from accurately identifying themselves and being represented fairly.” 

While some people feel as though this change can account for marginalized groups that aren’t fully represented within the United States, some, are concerned.

 “A notable concern was that the new format would lead to the potential loss of data about Afro-Latino respondents,” said a notice from the Management and Budget Office

These comments would go on to express their dismay at a combined race and ethnicity question as merging two separate views and suggesting that Hispanic or Latino identity constitutes a ‘race.’ 

Studies indicated that the dual-question format is perplexing, and there has been a rise in non-responses to the race query since 1980. Additionally, given that a significant portion of Afro-Latinos solely identify as Hispanic or Latino, this would result in a lower tally of the Afro-Latino population. 

However, there are still those who remain hopeful, especially concerning the Hispanic/Latino community. 

“The impact will be huge, anytime I take a test or have to fill out demographic information, there is never a Hispanic option so I often find myself having to say, “prefer not to say,” said Alejandra Giron, a bioengineering major at UMD. “This will be helpful to the Hispanic community because as a minority in a STEM field, it will let other Hispanic people know that they can join too and they will not be secluded or alone by showing that statistically, there are Hispanics who are in the field as well.” 

According to the Census, the two newly introduced categories will include subcategories. For instance, under the Hispanic or Latino category, options will encompass Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan, and other Central or South American or Spanish cultural backgrounds.

Kymani George, an information systems major, crucially highlights that these subcategories will be beneficial as he feels. 

“It will help specify the difference between Hispanic and Latinx people. Being Latino means you come from Latin America and being Hispanic means your country was colonized by Spain. So most Latinos are Hispanic but not all Hispanics are Latino. So, having more detailed options can help highlight these differences,” said George. 

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