A Census 2010 Inspired Question: Are Filipinos Hispanic?

When I was filling out the census form for my household, I came across question 8 (see picture), and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.  For myself, I answered no.  For The Wife, the Brother-in-Law, and my kids, it wasn’t so simple.  They definitely have Spanish origins, as The Wife’s side of the family has ancestors from Spain.  The Wife is light-skinned, as is one of my sons.  People debate whether Filipinos are Asians, but this made me wonder:  are Filipinos, at least some of them, Hispanic?

Being Hispanic could be considered advantageous.  Given accusations of redlining Asian-American at elite universities and University of California admission policy changes that some say would lower Asian-American enrollment, having “non-Asian status” could help Filipinos.  There is no question of Spanish influence on Filipino culture, names, and language.  There are many Filipinos like my wife and children who have Spanish ancestry.  There are even some Filipinos who speak Spanish at home as their preferred language, and there is a Spanish-based creole language (it uses Spanish words for vocabulary but with a non-Spanish grammar) called Chavacano.

It turns out that I am not the only one left uncomfortable by question 8 and other race associated census questions.  I looked online and saw a number of discussions like this one from Yahoo Answers about whether Filipino are Hispanic.  I called the census bureau’s help line, who basically read me a longer version of  question 8.  I asked what I should answer, and they said that they couldn’t tell me what I should answer.   I asked The Wife what I should answer for her, and she said while she has Spanish ancestry, she is Filipino.

In the end, I ended up checking no for question 8, and checked off the Filipino category for question 9.   What do you think?  Did I do the right thing?  Are Filipinos Hispanic?

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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