Introduction and Overview


The diverse use of the terms “Hispanic and Latino” in the literature can be attributed to the diversity of the subgroups of Mexican American, Cuban American and Puerto Rican populations within a broader context. State and or Regional differences in the use of terms are frequently noted in the Southwest. See the map below:

Regional Differences in Terms

U.S. Census Definitions


The U.S. Bureau of the Census uses the term “Hispanic” as an ethnicity category referring to persons who trace their origin or descent to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America, or Spain. Since 1980, according to the Census Bureau, Hispanics can be of any race. In an order mandated by the Executive Office of the President, revisions were made to the Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

In the 2000 census the term Hispanic was changed to “Spanish, Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Spanish, Hispanic or Latino”. The definition is as follows: “A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish Culture or origin, regardless of race.” The term, “Spanish origin” in addition to “Hispanic” or “Latino” can be used. The OMB’s justification for the change was that the regional use of the terms differs, with the eastern region using the term “Hispanic” more frequently and the Western region using the term “Latino” more often. For a discussion on biases in using the various terminologies see Hayes-Bautista & Chapa (1987), Latino Terminology: Conceptual bases for standardized terminology.