Sociology Latino/Latina Studies
Zulema Valdez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0078


The US federal government Office of Management and Budget defines Latinos as a “Hispanic origin” group that includes persons of “Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.” According to recent estimates provided by the US Census Bureau, the United States ranks third behind Mexico and Colombia as the country with the largest Latin-American-descent population. At 52.0 million persons, or almost 17 percent of the nation’s total, Latinos and Latinas represent the largest minority group in the United States. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the Latino population will reach roughly 133.0 million, or 30 percent of the US population. The US Hispanic population for 1 July 2050 is estimated to reach 132.8 million, constituting approximately 30 percent of the US population by that date. Among Latino subgroups, Mexicans make up the largest percentage (63 percent), followed by Puerto Ricans (9.2 percent), Cubans (3.5 percent), Salvadorans (3.3 percent), Dominicans (2.8 percent), and other Latino-origin groups (18.2 percent). Latino/Latina studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that is focused on understanding the experiences of diverse Latino national-origin individuals, groups, and communities in the United States. The emergence of Latino/Latina studies coincided with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when a growing interest in understanding racial and ethnic inequality led to the creation of “Chicano studies” departments and programs, dedicated to understanding the unique experiences of Latino national-origin groups in the United States. The field of Latino/Latina studies encompasses research on the panethnic or racial group, Latinos/Latinas or Hispanics, but also includes studies that focus on specific national-origin groups, like Mexican Americans or Cubans. Newer research highlights intersecting identities like race, class, gender, sexuality, legal status, and citizenship, stressing the diversity of the Latino/Latina experience in the United States.

General Overviews

Several works provide a comprehensive account of Latinos in US history, identifying the causes and consequences of Latino migration, settlement, and incorporation. González 2011 provides a comprehensive and exhaustive account of Latino history spanning five centuries. The editors of Suarez-Orozco and Paez 2002 brought together an interdisciplinary team of scholars examining major aspects of the Latino population in the United States including demography, language, health, and politics. Likewise, Romero, et al. 1997 offers an anthology that is critical of the black/white binary approach to race relations and which challenges the monolithic treatment of Latinos, including a deliberate treatment of comparisons across gender. Not surprisingly given the size of the Mexican-origin subgroup, much of the past and present research in Latino/Latina studies focuses on this group exclusively. Grebler, Moore, and Guzman’s classic volume, The Mexican American People (Grebler, et al. 1970), offers a comprehensive picture of the Mexican American people from migration to settlement and incorporation. This volume was recently updated by Telles and Ortiz 2009; these authors conducted a follow-up study of the original respondents’ descendants. Similarly, Acuña 2000 focuses on the Mexican American experience, providing an overview of Chicano history and identity from a social justice perspective. More recent works have highlighted lesser-known and understudied Latino subgroups like the Salvadorans (Menjivar 2000) and the Dominicans (Pessar and Foner 2000).

  • Acuña, Rodolfo. 2000. Occupied America: A history of Chicanos. New York: Longman.

    Considered by many scholars of Chicano and Chicana studies as the most definitive and comprehensive account of Chicano history.

  • González, Juan. 2011. Harvest of empire: A history of Latinos in America. New York: Penguin.

    An essential work that offers a critical examination of the relationship between Latin America and the United States, and how this relationship fostered US foreign policy and set the stage for patterns of Latino migration that continue today.

  • Grebler, Leo, Joan W. Moore, and Ralph C. Guzman. 1970. The Mexican American people: The nation’s second largest minority. New York: Free Press.

    An exhaustive investigation of the socioeconomic incorporation experiences of Mexican Americans in the Southwest.

  • Menjivar, Cecilia. 2000. Fragmented ties: Salvadoran immigrant networks in America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Menjivar examines the process of migration and settlement among Salvadorans in the United States, including an examination of how Salvadoran social networks mobilize resources.

  • Pessar, Patricia R., and Nancy Foner. 2000. A visa for a dream: Dominicans in the United States. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Part of The New Immigrant series, this book offers a first look at the integration and incorporation experiences of Dominicans in America.

  • Romero, Mary, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, and Vilma Ortiz, eds. 1997. Challenging fronteras: Structuring Latina and Latino lives in the U.S. An anthology of readings New York: Routledge.

    This anthology includes theoretically informed research that seeks to dispel the myth that “Latinos” constitute a monolithic cultural group. It includes chapters by leading researchers in the field of Latino and Latina studies.

  • Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo, and Mariela Paez. 2002. Latinos: Remaking America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    A comprehensive study of the Latino experience in the United States.

  • Telles, Edward E., and Vilma Ortiz. 2009. Generations of exclusion: Mexican Americans, assimilation, and race. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    A fascinating follow-up study to Grebler, Moore, and Guzman’s classic work, The Mexican American People, offering new analyses that span thirty-five years of Mexican American integration.

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