March 20th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

More than Mexican: Study highlights diversity of Latinos

By Michael Martinez and Mariano Castillo, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - Jonathan Larios hears it all the time: Someone walks into his Honduran restaurant and they think it's a Mexican place.

"Oh, I hate that. That bothers me a lot," said Larios, 21, general manager of two Los Angeles-area restaurants called Honduras Kitchen. "They always ask, 'How's the Mexican food?' It gets frustrating over time.

"It's like the most race that people always see is black, Mexican and American. They don't see anything else," said Larios, whose mother is Honduran and father Salvadoran.

His first-hand experience shows that some Americans confuse all Hispanics as being Mexicans.  While it's true that Mexicans make up the largest segment of the Hispanic population in the United States,  a new Brown University study that shows Latinos are hardly a monolithic group.

The demographic has wide differences in nationalities that are becoming more salient, the study said.

"When studies are done of Hispanics, the results mostly reflect the experience of Mexicans, who are more than 60% of the total," the study says. "But observers would be mistaken if they thought they knew Hispanics in the U.S. by looking only at Mexicans."

The large percentage of U.S. Hispanics of Mexican descent, an overwhelming majority, inadvertently hides distinct trends among Hispanics with origins in other countries, according to the report released Wednesday.

The differences extend to cuisine, too, Larios added.

His parents own both restaurants, in Long Beach and Huntington Park, the latter being in business for 20 years, making it the oldest Honduran eatery in the state, he said.

"I tell them our food is very different," he said of customers who confuse Honduran food with Mexican dishes. "Most of our food doesn't have anything hot and spicy. Our food will never be spicy."

Hondurans are proud of their heritage and often emblazon the flag on their soccer jersey, whether they're playing in a neighborhood league or cheering for the national team, he said.

Many non-Mexican groups are growing at a faster rate, and doing better economically, the study found. In another telling figure, Hispanics other than Mexican are much less segregated than often assumed.

While the number of Hispanics who identify as Mexican has increased 137% between 1990 and 2010, those with other origins have grown at a much faster rate. During that 20-year span, it is estimated that the Honduran population in the U.S. increased by 383%, Guatemalans by 289% and Peruvians by 204%.

"Mexicans are not losing their weight, but some groups who were small and not on the radar now number in the millions," said John Logan, one of the report's authors. "South Americans are now everywhere, and if you add them up, they are a huge number."

The three largest groups of Hispanics - Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans - make up 62%, 9%, and 4%, respectively, according to Census data. Central Americans make up 8% of the Hispanic population, and South Americans 5%.

In 1990, only three Hispanic largest groups had more than a million residents in the United States. By 2010, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans had joined that club.

One of the findings seemed to show that the national perception of the Hispanic population is closely tied in with the Mexican community. There is the persistent idea, for example, that Hispanics in the United States are insular and segregated from other non-Hispanic communities.

"The very stable trend of high segregation is one attributed to Hispanics, but it turns out it is mainly a characteristic of Mexicans," Logan said.

According to a measure known as the Index of Dissimilarity, every Hispanic group except Mexicans has become substantially less segregated since 1990.

Half of all South Americans used to be located in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, but by 2010, only 34% lived in these cities, the study says.

Other generalizations persist.

"There may be a general assumption that Hispanics are immigrants, which was never true for Puerto Ricans," Logan said. "There may be a generalized assumption about relatively low education and skill levels, which does not fit average Cubans and South Americans, and increasingly not Puerto Ricans."

The data indicates that below the surface, there is a great deal more change within the Hispanic population than commonly thought, Logan said.

These differences could be important to advertisers who target Hispanics, or politicians who seek their votes.

"I suspect that on the whole, their view of the Hispanic community is that of it as one community (the Mexican community) and that's probably not a strategy that will be really helpful," Logan said.

Logan conducted a similar study in 2000, and his most recent research was a continuation of that to see if the differences he spotted 13 years ago remained. The patterns and trends have become even clearer in the past decade, he said.

The report also took a look at certain social and economic characteristics of the different groups that showed various degrees of economic success. One measure examined were the median wages of each group.

While the median annual wage for Mexicans in the United States was $20,200, wages were much higher for Argentines and Venezuelans, both with median wages of $30,300.

This finding wasn't surprising, as social scientists have long noted that those with roots in Cuba and South America tend to have different economic backgrounds.

But one group that is sometimes assumed to be insular and employed in lower wage jobs, Puerto Ricans, are actually doing quite well, the study found. Puerto Ricans have increasingly integrated with the rest of the population and have a median wage of nearly $30,000.

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Filed under: History • How we live • How we look • Latino in America
soundoff (686 Responses)
  1. Rosy S

    comedian George Lopez said he will have nothing to do with anything that has 'panic' in it.
    Asi es!

    April 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. All_seen_eyes

    It doen't matter where you from, just do the right thing. Take care of your children, this is the best thing you can do for any country. When a child comes to this world, it is because there are two people waiting for him or her; a father and a mother. Let's produce good citizens! We are from Puerto Rico, my wife and I. I'm been working for 27 years, my wife for 25, proud of my community in Texas, diligents with our responsibility paying taxes, and even more pround now that our two sons graduated from UTA as engineers!

    March 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gandhus

    I don't see anywhere in my post where I labeled any group hispanic. I actually said Meixcans are NOT hispanic.

    Maybe you should stick to Tsalagi, your English obviously isn't so good.

    March 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Fred Chavez

    As a Hispanic New Mexican, I like to tell people who consider us less than American: We were in New Mexico before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. We didn't come to the U.S.-the U.S. came to *us.*

    March 21, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      Your mongolian ancestors invaded America after my people walked here during the last ice age. My people were here before yours bud.

      March 22, 2013 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        Hispanic mexicans and meso indians trace their origin to mongolians. North east woodland natives trace their heritage to turkey and syria. God didnt plant anyone here, we all came here from the cradle of civilazation, pangea, by migration.

        March 22, 2013 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
      • Luis

        IDK. The truth is with regard to modern day... We did own that. Before us the "meso americans" which ruled most of the northeastern area too. The way they ruled you have some mongolian in you as well. Either way were talking about after the colonization of America by Europeans. Spanish, French, English..... nothing to do with what your saying bro.

        March 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JG

    Not all. That's not true.

    March 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. M C Crockett

    Why do we use the term, Hispanic, to refer someone that was a colony of Spain or who has a Spanish surname?

    I know people individuals with last names of Ruiz and Guttierez that can't speak Spanish or any of its regional dialects. They only speak English and have lived in the United States several generations longer than many of my ancestors.

    March 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bert BigDongler

    Next time you consider your feelings toward US politicians, consider that they have been willing to turn the country into a third world hell-hole all in return for picking up a few votes.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. beisbolfan

    I am acutey aware of the differences in the various "hispanic" groups. What I see is that success or lack of progress by the various groups is largely determined by race. The hispanics of caucasian descent, from whatever nation, tend to be better educated and have achieved higher socio=economic status than those of African or Indigenous origin. Even within nations like Mexico, the white or lighter-skinned Mestizos, tend to be better off financially and be more educated than the pure indians. Brazil has the same pattern, blacks on the bottom of the social totem-pole, whites on top.

    Keep in mind that the term we use in the US, white people, is narrowly defined in our culture. Anthropologists consider the "greater caucasian family" to include such people as many Arabs, Iranians, Armenians, and even some isolated populations of caucasian descent in olaces like India and Pakistan. American whites are used to only thinking of blue-eyed blondes as "white", but in truth, the so-called "white race" contains a wide variation of skin tones. In Latin America, many people who are genetically caucasian appear to white Americans as "dark", so the white Americans consider them "different" than WE white Americans. This is a mistake.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      White is a broad brush. Thats why using the term white is useless and archaeic. Caucus also includes parts of northern africa...so you can be a black african caucasion.

      March 22, 2013 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        The EEOC describes ALL arabs as white caucasions...because thats exactly what they are.

        March 22, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Ok Half of what you say is truth. The reason why you think people with darker color are not that smart. It is the simplest reason of early slavery and access to education! It has nothing to do with their color. It is because they are somehow behind in the advances they were denied long time ago. And the trend somehow continues. If you think of White people in Hispanics countries are better in a way, it is because they are the descendants of the first white groups which had power and money when coming to the Americas. That's is why they do better economically. Furthermore, I believe people with color have a higher thirst for education and economic betterment. And it is absolutely not true that people of color do bad at school. I am an African descendant and since in my country I have always been among the top of my class. I was blessed in having access to great education. Ah and something to point out. In my home country we have people with different races believe it or not. Asians, Africans, Spanish, Whites. But we always call ourselves Ecuadorians. Not African-Ecuadorian, or Asian-Ecuadorian, neither Spanish-or Indian Ecuadorians. We are just simply Ecuadorians.

      March 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        America had been poisoned by politcal correctness. Here its bad to call yourself an american first. I do however. Im an American Indian and I dont have any problems calling myself that over native american. Most people cant pronounce Aniyunweah Keetowah anyway. Plus my first moniker is american. We do not allow people born here to be called natives...that problem number one and a huge diservice to american society. Our movement is called AIM(american indian movement) not the native american movement for a reason.

        March 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bert BigDongler

    America is a wonderful and diverse nation. A veritable kaleidoscope of nationalities, creeds, and religions which come with their own cuisines, dialects, and cultural traditions. Remember folks, it is OK to highlight and be proud of your background, your race, and your culture! Unless, of course, you are Caucasian, in that case you would be a RACIST!

    March 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      is that why st Patrick's day is so popular?

      March 21, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • massoud

        I wear ORANGE every St Patrick's Day

        March 22, 2013 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        my Irish family members wear orange also, because they are protestant. Catholics wear green. If you wear green on st patricks day and youre not Irish catholic, it means youre a total ignoramous or a fool to culture.

        March 22, 2013 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
      • Jorge

        Right on, John. If I'm smart enough to enjoy St. Paddy's Day, bagpipes and green beer, why are there O'Connells and Shauns out there too dumb to enjoy the Puerto Rican parade and dancing to salsa?

        April 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • beisbolfan

      Correct. I push back against the idea that whites are not allowed to root for oUR people.

      March 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • west coaster

      is that a caucasian as in from Georgia – the Russian one? Is that the white version of "Latin" .

      March 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Al

    They should teach Geography in schools so people will realize that there's more out there then meets the eye. The US is a country of immigrants, and are categorized as uneducated, unconcerned, and just unattached from the world.

    I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, living in the Los Angeles area for over 32 years, 6'1', green eyes, caucasian as John Smith from Huntington Beach, but wait! I'm Mexican... I speak Spanish. Ignorance is BLISS! U S and A! grrrrreatest country in the world (as Borat would say) >>> what a crock....

    March 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Captain Kirk

    I am a hispanic and will tell other hispanics, grow the hell up you pc pansies. Who cares...you live in the us and are american.....if you want to be so proud of your race...go back to your crappy country where economic and social disparity will be more improtant than being confused with a mexican...hell, these people that are complaining being confused with mexicans proberly wished they were lighter skinned too...or claim spanish lineage....lol....they even hate themselves

    March 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ElDestroyer

      You're Hispanic,...yeah...right..

      March 21, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        He probaly is el. Hispanics that have been here for multiple generations say the same thing to me. Hispanic means from Hispania(SPAIN). Spain is in europe not latin america. Your either white spanish, red meso indian, or both....but if youre not FROM spain...how can you be spanish? Youre not. Your native south american.

        March 22, 2013 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Alexandre Y

    Most people still confuse Hispanic as a racial reference, when it is in fact a cultural reference. There are Hispanics who are Asian, Caucasian, Native, African, etc. They also assume that all Hispanics are in Latin America, but certainly Filipinos are Hispanic, they make up one of the world's most populous countries, and they are all too often ignored from this conversation.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • massoud

      Really ? I am not Hispanic but in the summer when I get Tan I could pass for a Hispanic

      March 22, 2013 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Monica L.

    Being a "Hispanic, Latino or Chicano" in the United States is difficult. Especially if you come from another country because you are automatically considered to be "Mexican" even if you are not migrating from that country. It is very sad that Americans consider all Latin countries the same. You would think that the "United" States would be more accepting of all races, not just Latin countries. I hear constant discrimination issues around the U.S, whether you are; African-America, Hispanic, Latin-American, Asian, Pacific Islander and even Middle Eastern. What happened to understanding and knowing the history of the "United States"? We are ALL immigrants, this is what makes the U.S different and stands apart from all other countries. The fact that we can all come together as one and accept each other no matter what race or culture we are. The U.S has lacked respect of other races and their culture. This goes for those born as U.S citizens, we are suppose to stand as "One Nation", just like the Pledge of Allegiance states (which hardly anyone remembers), "Liberty and Justice for ALL"!

    March 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      As you well know, the problem starts and ends with the tens of millions ofillegals who have bankrupted and degraded this country into a third world dung heap.

      March 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      The biggest problem whites have is that when they came here they signed registers and told the us govt, they were here and became indentured servants, while other peoples either sneak in, overstay work visas, or have anchor babies. Im a native American Indian and I see clearly why they are angry with newer immigrants. I may not agree with their anger, but I see why they have amimosity.

      March 22, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        Im refering to the industrial revolution and the mid 1800s. Thats when whites came here like the stars in the sky. The potato famine also forced a ton of them here. It wasnt untill Andrew Jackson became president that my keetowah family was forced to leave nc for oklahoma.

        March 22, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Rosy S

      si, senorita Monica, Asi Es!
      much like Asians ... many Anglos automatically think Chinese!
      friends of mine son de Panama in Dallas, told me they hated it when Anglos mistaken them for Blacks ... my friends are Afro Latinos ...

      April 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lynn

    While I sympathize with being faced with the constant stream of ignorance by non-Hispanics or even within the Hispanic community, isn't Jonathan Larios the pot calling the kettle black? Did he or did he not lump in me (white, Irish-American) in with some race he is calling "American"? It seems like Mr. Larios needs to do his own homework on differences in ethnicity, or does he think everyone in this "American" race just comes from some generic country called Europe? And if that is the case, then his being called Mexican isn't any worse then him just referring to my race as "American".

    March 21, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Well said.

      March 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • AniyunweahCherokee

        White english hate redheaded irishman more than any other group of people. And the so called minorities forget the fact that irishman were also slaves in america (carribean sugar cane pickers)....and they just throw you aside and group you in with the english as white.

        March 22, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Nuyorican

    Carlos Mencia said it best. When in California, hispanics are all mexican. In NY area, theyre all Puerto Ricans. In Florida Cuban.
    My parents were both born in PR. I was born in Brooklyn. We are often referred to as being "NuyoRican"

    March 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Fernando

    I'm nearly 100% Irish heritage, with some Scottish and a wee bit if English. I prefer thinking there were people from other countries who sowed their seed into my ancestry, as it seems to help keeping the eyes from growing too close together. I'm happy to say we have good evidence that Vikings chased down some of the my slower female relatives in Cork around 900 AD, but we all tend to be good runners so we figure they probably didn't really give it much of an effort, which again, is consistent with our modern women-folk who embarrass us with their natural promiscuity.
    Anyway, I find the history of everything south of our border to be fascinating – sometimes even more so than the history of the US. Some places had a lot of mixing of blood while others kept separate from the indigenous population, often regrettably, through genocide. Some countries in South America have a significant Asian population and there were Germans there well before Nazi war criminals fled to Uruguay and Argentina. At one point (1900-1930) it looked like Argentina's economy could have rivaled that of the US, but the canal and military take-over reversed that trend. If you regard all of Mexico, Central and South America as a union, much like the EU, it has the potential for greatness, especially when you consider how these societies are getting onboard with birth control while education and public health are improving rapidly. My local school district is experiencing an on-schedule graduation rate of 73%, so we're going to have to attract educated professionals from these and other countries. After getting to know some of these Latino/Hispanic people, I have not noted the kind of condescendence nor the kind of derogatory remarks coming from them that I sometimes read here directed at them. They just seem to open their medical office for business (or whatever), and pretty much treat everybody with respect. Maybe that'll catch on here.
    Fernando is my name in all my Spanish classes as there were usually two or three Bobs.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Xibe

    There should be an article like this that details the nuanced diversity of Caucasians.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG


      March 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • massoud

      Have you not heard of political correctness ? I live in Minnesota and am a fifth generation one at that my Great Great Grandpa settled here from Scotland and not once in my lifetime has the Star Tribune Newspaper ever written an article about Scots who settled here generations go,but I can read about the Hmong or Somalians in Minnesota once a week in the local newspaper.

      March 22, 2013 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      Yes xibe. Caucus does include the entire middle east, part of asia, northern africa and southern europe. Pretty diverse group of people came from caucus.

      March 22, 2013 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
      • Xibe

        Sarcasm is so passe, so boring...

        What's your point? You do understand that the generally understand connotation of the word caucasian in the Unites States is white person, I know do. So again, what exactly is your point?

        Are you offended by the concept of white people or their celebration?

        March 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Bert BigDongler

    I'm not sure the other Latinos want to be in a slideshow with a corrupt pedofile like Menendez. But I guess CNN is ok with that kind of behavior.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Gandhus

    I'd submit to you that Mexicans are not hispanic at all, but a group unto themselves. If you were to make such sweeping and erroneous generalizations of any other groups there would be front page exposes, town hall meetings, investigations and general outrage (both genuine and feigned). Just further evidence of the ignorance of most Americans. Most of the comments here reinforce that too. Cheers.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
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