Monday, April 11, 2016

URSP Student Michael Evanoff Studies the Effects of Language on Surveys of Hispanics and Latinos in the USA

My study will focus on identity in the Hispanic/Latin community and some different ways that data from telephone interviews can be interpreted. The role of language in the interview process will also be investigated to see if respondents who prefer to speak Spanish during the interview have different responses than those who prefer to speak English.

I am currently working on a BA in Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies. As part of Latin American Studies 300, Professor Leeman gave a guest lecture on some of the statistics that the US Census has used to classify Latinos. There is a large body of research that has analyzed ethnoracial classification in the census but Professor Leeman stressed that most research has not taken language and language ideologies into account. Her lecture showed how language has historically been considered a racial characteristic and how the Hispanic origin question implicitly references language. Dr. Leeman noted that Census interviews are sometimes conducted in Spanish, depending on the preference of the interviewee and she mentioned her current research investigating whether the language of the interview has an impact on the answers. I thought that this would be a fascinating interdisciplinary topic of investigation since it links the Spanish language with Latin American Studies and requires an analytical and statistical approach.

I have accessed the interview data from the Pew Research Center and have taken the first step to see if I can read their datasets and recreate the statistics that they publish in their online articles. My results are similar to but not exactly the same as theirs. I read their statistical methodology and realized that they manipulate the data in order to correct for a number of different statistical variables before publishing their articles. The first dataset that I downloaded has 701 respondents and, of those 701, approximately 50% self-identify as Mexican. The Census Bureau reports that the Mexican percentage of Hispanics in the USA is closer to 64%. The Pew Research Center may be increasing the weight of the Mexican responses in the survey to account for the disproportionately low number of Mexicans in the survey.