300K Filipinos choose Hispanic ethnicity over Asian

by Kumar Balani

Kumar Balani

NEW YORK — Over 298,000 or 7.8 percent of all Filipinos in the US consider their ethnicity as Hispanic rather than Asian. This was surprisingly revealed from responses to ancestry and ethnicity questions that some 3.825 million Filipinos were asked in the 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS). There were 15.5 million total responses received from a diverse number of people of various ethnicities and races in that five-year-long survey

Filipinos self-chose “Hispanic” as their ethnicity in response to the question: “What is this person’s ancestry or ethnic origin?” They were asked to write in any two ethnic self-identification of their choice.

Filipinos are the fourth largest number of US immigrants after people from Mexico, China and India in that survey. Today, they number an estimated over four million people. The choice of Hispanic ethnicity was not the case with other immigrants of Asian geographic origin and parentage, who all indicated “Asian” as their ethnicity in their responses to that ACS.

This apparently unexpected finding of nearly 300,000 Filipinos identifying their ethnicity as Hispanic was revealed in a 45-page study entitled When Are Filipinos Hispanic? by Ellwood Carlson, who is Charles Van Nam professor on the Sociology of Population at the Center for Demography and Population Health at Florida State University. We provide below some demographic factors he cites for this finding based on data obtained from the 2012-2016 ACS:

  • Those who described themselves as both Filipino and Hispanic are more likely to be 50 and older.
  • They were born in the US.
  • There were living in Hispanic neighborhoods.
  • They had lower levels of education and family income

The Hispanic neighborhoods are more than likely found in the eight states of the Southwestern US geographic sector shown here. In the 2010 US Census (latest available data source), 1.768 million Filipinos lived in these eight states.
Carlson also cites historical reasons why these Filipinos identified their ethnicity as Hispanic:

  • Many Filipinos have Spanish surnames, reflecting the Philippines’ Spanish colonial history.
  • A history of centuries of Spanish colonial control in both the Philippines and many countries in Latin America makes Hispanic culture familiar and comfortable for Filipino immigrants in several respect
  • Research has turned up testimonies about the salience of the Catholic religion for both Hispanic and Filipino Americans. Spanish colonial government in the Philippines eschewed systematic introduction of the Spanish language there.
  • Subsequent decades of further US control attenuated Spanish language prevalence in the country.
  • Many Spanish loan words and surnames penetrated into most languages of the archipelago which would lead immigrants from the Philippines toward Hispanic culture.
  • We might expect stronger tendencies to express Hispanic identity among immigrants from the Philippines than among their American-born Fil-American descendants.

The US Census Bureau (USCB) does a full-blown population count every decade and a mid-decade population estimate every five years in between. In addition, the USCB also does the ACS every month in the form of questionnaires sent to around 295,000 addresses or 3.5 million per year.

The US has one of the most ethnically — and racially — diverse populations in the world. It is the third most populous country after China’s 1.42 billion and India’s 1.36 billion people. Comparatively, there were around 107 million people in the Philippines, the world’s 13th largest country in population.

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