Do Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans share an identity? The answer wasn’t necessarily clear before 1980.
That’s when the Census Bureau introduced a pair of new terms, Hispanic and Latino, to its decennial count. The addition was the result of years of advocacy and negotiation: Being counted on the census meant the potential for far more government action, yet the broad category oversimplified the identities of an immense and diverse group.
“The way that we define ourselves is consequential,” says G. Cristina Mora, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. “The larger the category, the more statistical power it would have.”
This week on The Experiment, the origin story of a core American identity—and what’s lost when such a broad category takes hold.