Latinx people are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, accounting for more than half of the country’s growth in the past 10 years. Yet there’s been a lack of comprehensive data on Latinx populations in the country.1
“Latinos are at the heart of America’s story.”A new project by UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Institute (LPPI), dubbed the Latino Data Hub, aims to change that by providing “free, reliable and actionable data in English and Spanish to empower a wide range of stakeholders,” according to a press release announcing the project.
“Latinos are at the heart of America’s story, and it’s time we had a comprehensive resource that reflects our rich diversity and the unique challenges we face,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, UCLA LPPI Director of Research in the release. “By equipping advocates, policymakers, and community leaders with the right information, we can help create a better future for Latinos living in the United States. This empowering new data platform is a significant step toward equity and progress.”
The Hub was born in part out of frustration on the part of researchers, activists, philanthropists, and others who want the kind of in-depth data that aren’t readily available for Latinx populations in ways they are for other racial and/or ethnic groups in the United States.
“There’s really been this lack of data to help community organizers, philanthropists, policymakers,” says Jie Zong, senior research analyst at UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Institute and manager of the Latino Data Hub. “It is kind of unbelievable how little people know how, how little data are out there [regarding] the very specific details of the Latino life and the fabric of Latino lives.”
There are various reasons for the lack of more robust data for Latinx populations, says Zong, but one major factor is the relative ambiguity—or incoherence—with which the US Census has dealt with Latinx identities.
“There’s really been this lack of data to help community organizers, philanthropists, policymakers.”To date, the US Census has considered “Latino” or “Hispanic” to be an “ethnicity” rather than a “race,” like Black, White, or Native American, for example. A recent proposal by the Biden administration would change the 2030 Census to include an option for respondents to identify as “Latino or Hispanic” under race—but that change is still years off. In the meantime, the Latinx populous has had to reckon with an often bewildering set of choices as to how to identify themselves.
“There’s just a lot of nuances” when it comes to how Latinx people have been identified by other institutions, especially the US Census, says Zong. “For example, why are Brazilians not considered Latino? Why is Spain considered Latino…when [Spanish people] are so [relatively] socioeconomically advantaged and such a different profile than, for example, Mexicans or Central Americans? So, there’s a lot of discussions in that.”
A Wide Diversity of Latinx Experience
“There’s power in numbers.”
The Latino Data Hub is an attempt to provide the kind of detailed information about Latinx people in the United States that has eluded those who seek it, for a variety of purposes.
In doing so, the project aspires to paint a more nuanced picture of how Latinx communities are growing more rapidly than any other major racial and/or ethnic group—and to count Latinx people in ways they haven’t fully been counted to date.
“There’s power in numbers,” notes Zong. “And I think that as the population size grows, the needs also become more diverse….The data aggregation that we are providing really makes it helpful for people to understand the population they are talking about.”
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The uses for and potential users of such data are many and diverse. But the project’s authors hope and expect their data will inform, among others, activists and advocates for Latinx populations.
“We envision that the main constituents [for the project] would be community advocates, community-based organizations who do direct service delivery, community organizers, labor organizers, policymakers,” says Zong. “Media is also one of the areas in which we hope to be helpful, as well as the research community.”
“The most recent example,” notes Zong, “was people who were working on voter registration in states like Georgia,”—a state where voting rights and voter access have been a consistent source of struggle and mobilization.
“It will be helpful [for organizers] to know how many voting-eligible Latinx communities are there? What is their language profile, do they speak mostly English or mostly Spanish or another language, like an Indigenous language?” notes Zong. “These are the kinds of factors that would be very helpful for [organizers] to design certain targeted outreach approaches.”
An Ongoing Effort
The project is ongoing and will be updated with more in-depth data over the coming months and years. Right now, notes Zong, the Latino Data Hub is providing data mostly collected from the US Census American Community Survey, which (unlike the general Census) asks a plethora of questions, from income to housing costs to employment status to educational attainment.
That data, while already extant, has been extremely difficult for anyone but experts to tease out of the US Census, Zong says.
“But going forward, we’re going to provide much more information” than just that provided by the Census, says Zong. This includes breaking down Latinx population data by new geographic metrics, like Congressional district; and looking at measures like Latinx wealth, and environmental impacts on Latinx communities.
And to ensure the date can reach as many interested groups as possible, the hub is aiming at the kind of inclusivity that has been missing from research resources in this field: it’s 100 percent bilingual.
- NPQ prefers the term “Latinx” to describe individuals of Latin American descent. “Latino” has been maintained here when used by others.