Official Adoption of the Terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”
(Pews Research Center) After a number of years of lobbying by Mexican-American and Hispanic organizations, in 1976 the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 94-311. Called the “Joint resolution relating to the publication of economic and social statistics for Americans of Spanish origin or descent” and sponsored by Rep. Edward Roybal of California, the law mandated the collection of information about U.S. residents of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Central American, South American and other Spanish-speaking country origins (Pub. L. No. 94-311, 1976). Subsequent directives from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1977 outlined the details of data collection for the federal government. A second OMB directive in 1997 added the term “Latino” to “Hispanic” (Rumbaut, 2006).
The use of the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” to describe Americans of Spanish origin or descent is unique to the U.S. and their meaning continue to change and evolve. Outside of the U.S., these terms are not widely used (National Research Council, 2006) and may also have different meanings.
Even though OMB has developed a formal definition of Hispanicity, in practice the U.S. Census Bureau and others rely on self-reports to determine ethnicity—someone is Hispanic or Latino if they self-identify as Hispanic or Latino (Passel and Taylor, 2009). Using this method, the U.S. Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in 2010. (read full report)