There was a debate on Twitter about how the Justice Department reports on race and ethnicity after a user claimed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) now lumps Latino crime statistics in with white Americans when reporting them. However, the latest available data shows the FBI reports both race and ethnicity, albeit with some caveats.
“FBI NOW OMITS LATINOS IN CRIME STATS, COMBINES THEM WITH WHITES,” @The_Real_Fly tweeted on Monday, Feb. 14, along with an image of a table that shows arrest data by race.
In 2020, the FBI changed the way it reports crime data to a more interactive quarterly report called a Crime Data Explorer. While finding it requires a bit more digging, there is an ethnicity category.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice summarized data from 2018 in a report that includes both race and ethnicity.
Though the initial tweet is not fully accurate as evidenced by recent reports, there are Hispanic people of various races and the FBI does not always do the best job reporting Hispanics as a separate category across the board, according to researchers.
According to a report from the Urban Institute, there is still an “alarming lack of data” on Latino crime and prison rates as recently as 2016.
One Twitter user agreed. “Latinos have been classified as “white” by the gov’ment for as long as I can recall. Its been that way on mortgage applications for at least 7 years as well,” @TruthHertzAWatt wrote.
However, others called the tweet about Latino crime statistics “false,” noting there is a difference between the categories.
“That’s false. This is race. Ethnicity is a separate category. Because Latino folks fall into many race categories. This table is just trimmed,” user @inocati0r responded, along with a link to a broader table from 2017, which does show ethnicity.
User @Zeke155k added, “lmfao! you dont know the difference between race and ethnicity?”
“I don’t think this is new. Most ‘Hispanics’ used to self-identify as white. Now not so much, prob for college admissions. Lol,” user @bigfreedomplace chimed in.
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A survey of state criminal justice data showed that 40 states reported race such as “white,” “black,” “other” in their arrest records, but only 15 states reported ethnicity, according to the Urban Institute report. “Although Latinos are just one of many ethnic groups in the United States, the population is projected to be 28.6 percent Latino by 2060, and Latinos are the group most affected when states ignore ethnicity.”
The report added, “without comprehensive data, policymakers, community members, and advocates cannot know how mass incarceration affects Latinos specifically and ethnic disparities cannot be accurately tracked.”
The report also said that states are more likely to label Latin prison inmates as white.
“A state’s failure to collect and report ethnicity data affects not only Latinos but the entire criminal justice system,” the report continued. “States that only count people as ‘black’ or ‘white’ likely label most of their Latino prison population ‘white,’ artificially inflating the number of ‘white’ people in prison and masking the white/black disparity in the criminal justice system.”
PHOTO: Cropped image of prisoner wearing handcuffs. LightFieldStudios /iStock, https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/LightFieldStudios?mediatype=photography