Who Is Indigenous in Latin America?

Florencia Torche, New York University (NYU)
Edward E. Telles, Princeton University

We use two innovative nationally representative surveys of Mexico and Peru to compare estimates of indigenous populations and patterns of indigenous classification based on alternative measures of indigenous identification. The indigenous population of Mexico and Peru is the largest in the Western Hemisphere by official counts but our preliminary analysis reveals wide variation in indigenous classification depending on the measure used, especially in Peru. Although indigenous people officially constitute 27 percent of the Peruvian population, fully half of Peruvians are indigenous by one of our most expansive measure but less than 5 percent by the most restrictive one. We also find that differences in classification as indigenous depends on rural/urban condition, socioeconomic status and interestingly, skin color. For example, self-identification in an indigenous ethnic group (Quechua, Nahuatl, etc.) compared to self-identification based on indigenous language fluency occurs mainly among among younger, more urban, and lighter peoples, with some notable variations across country.

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Presented in Session 132: Measurement Issues in Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality