‘Hispanic now trumps all’ in race and ethnicity reporting

by Grace

From the Pomona College website

In Fall 2010, federal changes to the collection and reporting of race and ethnicity became mandatory. These changes, developed by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), have had a substantial impact on the data practices of institutions across the country, including Pomona College.  The key changes include:

  • Two-question collection format: The race/ethnicity question is now asked in two parts. Individuals are first asked whether they are Hispanic (yes/no). Regardless of their answer to this question, all ethnicities may also select one or more of five races (Asian, Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, White, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native).
  • Hispanic now trumps all: Those who respond “yes” to the first question are reported as Hispanic only, regardless of whether they also select one or more races.
  • Two or more races: Those who respond “no” to the first question and select more than one race in question two are reported to IPEDS only as “two or more races.” This is a new reporting category.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders are now reported separately from other Asians.

All college students are asked to report this information, which is presumably used for creating a diversified student body, awarding scholarships and tracking demographic trends.

In general, the new schema has the effect of increasing the proportion of “Hispanic” while decreasing the proportion of “Black” and “Asian.”

There are many problems with this classification method.  If a student is Hispanic, answering “correctly” to the first question means that his race, whether white, black or other,  goes unreported.   Any advantage resulting from a particular race designation is lost.  This process is so odd that I can see how students try to game the system.  For example, if I were of Hispanic/Native American heritage, answering the first question “correctly” would erase my NA race, possibly the most desirable URM (Under-Represented Minority) among college admissions officers.

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2 Comments to “‘Hispanic now trumps all’ in race and ethnicity reporting”

  1. The HIspanic category has always been problematic since it refers to a cultural category, not a racial category. Plus, it is kind of a big lump. There is a world of difference between someone from Barcelona and someone from the Dominican Republic. Likewise, the Asian category is a weird big lump. Besides factoring out Hawaiians, they should also differentiate between South Asians (who are Caucasian, in fact) and East Asians. The categories don’t make sense because they confuse race and culture.

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  2. Agreed, and I think these reporting guidelines only adds to the general confusion about race vs culture/ethnicity.

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