A coding error in an annual survey by the U.S. Census Bureau has offered unprecedented insight into how large numbers of Brazilians in the U.S. identify as Hispanic or Latino.
An analysis by Pew Research Center shows that the coding mistake revealed at least 416,000 Brazilians, or more than two-thirds of Brazilians in the U.S., identifying as Hispanic in the 2020 American Community Survey. By comparison, only 14,000 Brazilians identified that way in 2019, and only 16,000 Brazilians did so in 2021 — years when the coding error wasn’t made.
Since 2000, the Census Bureau hasn’t classified Brazilians and other people from non-Spanish speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as Hispanic because of federal government definitions that were last revised in 1997 but are being reconsidered for an update next year. Because of this, if someone marks that they are Hispanic but Brazilian on the survey, they are recoded as “not Hispanic” when the numbers are crunched.
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In 2020, however, the bureau inadvertently failed to make those recoding changes for Brazilians, as well as people from Portugal, the Philippines and non-Spanish speaking countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, resulting in an additional 471,000 people who identified as Hispanic in 2020 compared to 2021, Pew said.
More than 62 million people identified as Hispanic in the 2021 American Community Survey. The survey questionnaire asks if someone is Hispanic or not, and separately asks what the respondent’s race is.
“In particular, the large number of Brazilians who self-identified as Hispanic or Latino highlights how their views of their own identity does not necessarily align with official government definitions,” Pew said in a report released Wednesday. “It also underscores that being Hispanic means different things to different people.”
There were more than 526,000 Brazilians in the U.S. in 2021, with more than a fifth living in Florida, according to the American Community Survey. Using different criteria, the Pew report puts the number of Brazilians in the U.S. at 602,000 people.