Latino Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 432–460 | Cite as

Becoming Hispanic: The negotiation of ethnoracial identity in US census interviews

  • Jennifer LeemanEmail author
Original Article


Researchers across disciplines have analyzed the ethnoracial classification of Latinxs in the US census, as well as the ideological, political, and material underpinnings and effects of such classification. In this article, I advance our understanding of the census’ reproduction of racial identities and racial discourse in two ways. First, I demonstrate that sociolinguistic theory and methods can shed new light on census classification in three distinct areas: (1) the categories and classifications themselves, (2) the negotiation of ethnoracial classification during census interviews, and (3) the language in which censuses are conducted. Second, I demonstrate that census-taking does not consist simply of recording preexisting ethnoracial identities, or of disseminating official discourses from interviewers to respondents. Instead, census interviews involve the intersubjective construction and production of ethnoracial identities, as interviewers and respondents negotiate the meaning of the categories provided and their places within them.


Language ideologies Race Racialization Census Ethnicity Translation 



I am grateful to Paul Beatty, Patricia Goerman, Joanne Pascale, and Fabián Romero, of the US Census Bureau, as well as to the anonymous reviewers, for their invaluable comments and suggestions. All remaining shortcomings are mine alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Census BureauSuitlandUSA

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