Young Hispanic women among the most likely to use the term
Pan-ethnic labels describing the U.S. population of people tracing their roots to Latin America and Spain have been introduced over the decades, rising and falling in popularity. Today, the two dominant labels in use are Hispanic and Latino, with origins in the 1970s and 1990s respectively.
More recently, a new, gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label, Latinx, has emerged as an alternative that is used by some news and entertainment outlets, corporations, local governments and universities to describe the nation’s Hispanic population.
However, for the population it is meant to describe, only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves, according to a nationally representative, bilingual survey of U.S. Hispanic adults conducted in December 2019 by Pew Research Center.
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.
While only about a quarter of U.S. Hispanics say they have heard the term Latinx, awareness and use vary across different subgroups. Young Hispanics, ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to have heard of the term – 42% say they have heard of it, compared with 7% of those ages 65 or older. Hispanics with college experience are more likely to be aware of Latinx than those without college experience; about four-in-ten Hispanic college graduates (38%) say they have heard of Latinx, as do 31% of those with some college experience. By comparison, just 14% of those with a high school diploma or less are aware of the term.
In addition, the U.S. born are more likely than the foreign born to have heard the term (32% vs. 16%), and Hispanics who are predominantly English speakers or bilingual are more likely than those who mainly speak Spanish to say the same (29% for both vs. 7%).
Hispanics who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely to have heard of Latinx than those who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party (29% vs. 16%).
Awareness of the term Latinx does not necessarily translate into use. Across many demographic subgroups, the share of Hispanics who say they use Latinx to describe their own identity is significantly lower than the share who say they have heard it. Use is among the highest for Hispanic women ages 18 to 29 – 14% say they use it, a considerably higher share than the 1% of Hispanic men in the same age group who say they use it.