Black Disadvantage or Advantage? Misalignment between State and Popular Understandings of Blackness in Mexico
Growing numbers of countries are including ethnoracial questions on their national censuses, spawning new scholarship on the politics of state classification and ethnoracial stratification. However, these literatures have generally not focused on how alignment or misalignment between state and popular conceptualizations of ethnoracial categories affects official measurements, including population size and ethnoracial inequality. The authors leverage a quasi-natural experiment on state-popular alignment in Mexico by drawing on three recent government surveys, which, for the first time in the nation’s history, sought to measure black identification yet defined blackness in divergent ways. The authors find that questions that define blackness in cultural terms (which misalign with popular conceptions of blackness) produce substantially smaller population estimates and considerably less black disadvantage than a noncultural (racial origins) question. This article bridges the literatures on the politics of ethnoracial classification and stratification and produces new empirical and theoretical insights into the study of ethnoracial measurement and inequality.