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Results of Recent Methodological Research on the Hispanic Origin and Race Questions

Elizabeth Martin and Eleanor Gerber

KEY WORDS: race measurement, question wording, methodological artifacts


Several recent changes have led to increased focus on the quality and consistency of federal statistics on the racial characteristics of the U.S. population, including population changes due to high rates of immigration, as well as rates of racial intermarriage that continue to rise. Changes in systems of racial classification have been made to accommodate these population changes and to improve the quality of racial statistics. At the same time, evidence accumulates that race reporting can be substantially affected by methodolgical factors, and that race reporting by Hispanics is particularly vulnerable. This paper discusses the social constructs of race and Hispanic origin, and draws on several sources of data to illustrate and assess methodological problems involved in measuring race in surveys, including wording and conceptual issues, mode effects, and interviewer effects. The paper examines and comments on wording differences between various alternative versions of the question, drawing on evidence from qualitative and quantitative research conducted by the Census Bureau and others, to discuss the implications for the data. The paper discusses lessons that might be drawn from the Census Bureau's experience and research needed to address measurement issues.

CITATION:Martin, Elizabeth and Gerber, Eleanor. (2004). "Results of Recent Methodological Research on the Hispanic Origin and Race Questions." Paper prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Boston, MA, April 2, 2004.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: August 3, 2005
Last revised: August 3, 2005

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010