• August 7th, 2019

State’s Hispanics Probably Undercounted in Census

The recently released 2000 Census figures showed that 75,830 people in Alabama marked on their census forms that they are Hispanic. But that number is widely regarded as being too low, according to Annette Watters, manager of the Alabama State Data Center at the Center for Business and Economic Research at The University of Alabama.Watters said there could be several reasons for the low figure. “Some Hispanics may have neither filled out a census form nor have been located by census enumerators who attempted to follow up uncounted people,” she said. “Another reason for the low count might be confusion about terminology.”

According to Watters, the Office of Management and Budget directed the Census Bureau to list Hispanic as an ethnic group, not a race, reasoning that Hispanics may be of any race. “Despite the federal government’s official position, many Hispanics think of themselves as Hispanic by race,” Watters said, pointing out that recent data released for Alabama tends to confirm that people might have had trouble with that question on the census form.

For example, Watters said, nearly 49 percent of Alabama Hispanics listed their race as white. About 8 percent thought of themselves as Black or African American Hispanics. A few hundred listed themselves as American Indian, Asian, or Pacific Islander Hispanics. But a large number, 35 percent, chose “None of the Above.”

“They were sure they are Hispanic, but they didn’t identify with any of the race choices, perhaps because they think Hispanic is their race,” Watters said.

An additional 5,000 of Alabama’s Hispanic population, or about 7 percent, marked that they are two or more races. Overall in Alabama, less than 1 percent of the population marked two or more races.

“The suspicion is that the Hispanics who marked two or more races were considering Hispanic to be one of the two (or more) racial groups to which they belong,” Watters said. “Even though the federal government doesn’t recognize Hispanic as a race, that doesn’t change people’s perceptions of themselves. And the data we get from the census come from the way people marked their forms.”

Census information about any county in Alabama can be obtained at http://cber.cba.ua.edu.

The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, founded in 1919, first began offering graduate education in 1923. Its Center for Business and Economic Research was created in 1930, and since that time has engaged in research programs to promote economic development in the state while continuously expanding and refining its base of socioeconomic information.