Will Latino Identity Lose Its Salience?

Sean Trende argues that Latino identity will lose its political salience over time, just as Italian American identity has lost its salience. I am sympathetic to Trende’s view, yet one possible counterargument is that racial preferences create an incentive for upwardly mobile second- and third-generation Latinos to identify as members of a marginalized and underrepresented group. Americans with roots in the Scots-Irish communities of Greater Appalachia are underrepresented in many elite contexts, e.g., in elite U.S. universities, yet there is no powerful incentive to tout an Appalachian identity, and so Appalachian identity has attenuated over time. One can imagine the American ethnocultural landscape having evolved differently had champions of Appalachian identity in the 1970s succeeded in persuading Census officials and social scientists that people of Appalachian origin ought to be defined by a shared historical experience of economic deprivation. 

Suffice it to say, I think it is a good thing that Appalachian identity was not entrenched in this manner. But Elizabeth Warren, who is very clearly a part of the Greater Appalachia diaspora, might think otherwise.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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