Though nearly a quarter of U.S. Hispanics have heard of the gender neutral, pan-ethnic label “Latinx,” almost none of them use it to refer to themselves.
The Pew Research Center released a poll on Tuesday showing that 3% of Hispanic people in the United States identify as “Latinx,” despite its use in academia, government, and the news. Pew conducted the poll from a nationally representative sample of U.S. Hispanic adults in December 2019.
As Pew explains:
The emergence of Latinx coincides with a global movement to introduce gender-neutral nouns and pronouns into many languages whose grammar has traditionally used male or female constructions. In the United States, the first uses of Latinx appeared more than a decade ago. It was added to a widely used English dictionary in 2018, reflecting its greater use.
Yet the use of Latinx is not common practice, and the term’s emergence has generated debate about its appropriateness in a gendered language like Spanish. Some critics point to its origins among U.S. English speakers, saying it ignores the Spanish language and its gendered form.1 Still, there are examples of the term’s use in Spanish in the U.S. and abroad.2 Meanwhile, others see Latinx as a gender-and LGBTQ-inclusive term, reflecting a broader movement within the U.S. around gender identity.
The polling company also looked at data from Google Trends and found that Latinx as a search term popped up far less frequently than Hispanic, Latina, and Latino. The number of searches for Latinx has been trending up, though, and hit an all-time high for monthly searches in June.
A majority of Hispanics prefer that the identifier “Hispanic” be used when talking about the U.S. Hispanic community, rather than “Latino” or “Latinx.” Even among the subsection of Hispanics who had heard of the term “Latinx,” half said that the label “Hispanic” should used when talking about the Hispanic community.
Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Research Center’s director of global migration and demography research, explained the results in an interview with NPR.
“What we found is that ‘Hispanic’ is preferred by far. Then, Latino, and finally, as you noted, a very small share say that they prefer Latinx,” Lopez said. “But there’s another important finding in the report, which is about awareness of the term. Latinx is a relatively new umbrella term on the scene.”
“It’s been around for about 20 years, but it’s only recently — in the last five or six years — really begun to be used widely in the news media, in pop culture, and by corporations,” Lopez continued. “Universities have been using it for a while, but only about a quarter of people in this population say they’ve actually heard the term. So the term is relatively unknown to the population it’s meant to describe.”
When asked what the term “Latinx” means, respondents could not agree on a universal definition.
As Pew reports:
42% of those who have heard the term describe it as a gender-neutral one. As one 21-year-old woman said, “Latinx is a more inclusive term to use for those who do not choose to identify with a certain gender. The terms Latino and Latina are very limiting for certain people.”
Other responses from the open-ended question offer other descriptions of Latinx and reactions to it. For example, 12% of respondents who had heard of Latinx express disagreement or dislike of the term. Some described the term as an “anglicism” of the Spanish language, while others say the term is “not representative of the larger Latino community.”
Among other responses, 12% say Latinx is a term about being Hispanic or Latino, while 9% of those aware of Latinx say it is an LGBTQ community inclusive term. And 6% of respondents who have heard of Latinx say it is a new, alternative or replacement term for Latino.