Latina/o or Mexicana/o? The Relationship between Socially Assigned Race and Experiences with Discrimination

Edward D. Vargas, Nadia C. Winston, John A. Garcia, Gabriel R. Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Discrimination based on one’s racial or ethnic background is one of the oldest and most perverse practices in the United States. Although much research has relied on self-reported racial categories, a growing body of research is designed to measure race through socially assigned race. Socially assigned or ascribed race measures how individuals feel they are classified by other people. In this study, the authors draw on the socially assigned race literature and explore the impact of socially assigned race on experiences with discrimination using a 2011 nationally representative sample of Latina/os (n = 1,200). Although much of the current research on Latina/os has been focused on aggregation across national-origin group members, this study marks a deviation in the use of socially assigned race and national origin to understand how being ascribed as Mexican is associated with experiences of discrimination. The authors find evidence that being ascribed as Mexican increases the likelihood of experiencing discrimination relative to being ascribed as White or Latina/o. Furthermore, the authors find that being misclassified as Mexican (ascribed as Mexican but not of Mexican origin) is associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing discrimination compared with being ascribed as White, ascribed as Latina/o, and correctly ascribed as Mexican. The authors provide evidence that socially assigned race is a valuable complement to self-identified race/ethnicity for scholars interested in assessing the impact of race/ethnicity on a wide range of outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-515
Number of pages18
JournalSociology of Race and Ethnicity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • ascribed race
  • discrimination
  • ethnicity
  • race
  • racial misclassification
  • socially assigned race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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