Study: Latino Immigrants Choose ‘White’ Pass

By Michelle Chen Jun 14, 2010

With draconian anti-immigrant laws and deportation dragnets in high gear, it looks like America’s racial barriers are hardening against the Latino community. But who draws those lines? Researchers from University of Illinois and Ohio State have examined the racial identities immigrants take on when trying to assimilate. They found nearly four out of five recent Latino migrants, regardless of skin color, called themselves white. The study drew from immigrants’ self-identification data in the 2003 New Immigrant Survey, which sampled adult immigrants who had recently obtained legal permanent status. When the survey asked respondents to choose a racial category (apart from the label of Latino ethnicity), "more than three-quarters of respondents (79 percent) identified themselves as white, regardless of their skin color." Researchers interpreted this as a sign that Latinos were "attempting to push the boundaries of whiteness to include them, even if their skin color is darker." If the vast majority of these immigrants really do aspire to move from a brown identity to (what they perceive as) a white one, what’s driving this supposed quest for whiteness? Photo: istock/Juan Bernal