What is the difference between race and ethnicity? Wouldn’t Hispanic or Latino be someone’s race?

Date Published: November 2015

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This is an example of how academic terminology does not always line up with how people actually talk or identify. This question can be especially confusing because people of Latin American descent would say their race is “Hispanic,” for example, and would not be referred to in casual conversation or seen in their communities as “White.” Unless the person is from an original people’s group—that is indigenous or American Indian—their ancestors came to South America, Central America, North America, Cuba, or Puerto Rico from another part of the world like Africa or Europe, causing them to be included in one of the racial categories listed.

By the time you get to the Ethnicity question, you’ve likely already asked the client what their race is, and they might have responded with something like “Hispanic,” “Guatemalan,” or “Latino.” To help ascertain the best response for “Race,” you could say, “Great, I will say that you are Hispanic [and use that response for the Ethnicity data element]. Do you know if your ancestors were originally from a country like Spain, somewhere in Africa, or are you part of an indigenous group?”

If the person doesn’t know his or her race or ethnicity or refuses to disclose it, you should use “Client doesn’t know” or “Client refused” rather than making an assumption.

Tags: Data - Data Standards