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Prevalence of Substance Use Among Racial & Ethnic Subgroups in the U.S.

2.2 Measurement of Racial and Ethnic Identification

Several studies have investigated the associations between race/ethnicity and substance use among adolescents and among adults. As mentioned above, the principal advantage of this study is a much larger sample size than previous studies, approximately 87,000 respondents aged 12 and older in the combined 1991-93 NHSDAs, including more than 22,000 adolescent respondents aged 12 to 17, more than 21,000 young adult respondents aged 18 to 25, and more than 44,000 adult respondents aged 26 and older. The large sample size makes possible 1) a more refined approach to measuring race/ethnicity, and 2) more extensive breakdowns by demographic and other social factors in analyzing the associations between race/ethnicity and substance use.

The racial/ethnic classification used in this report is based on responses to three interviewer-administered questions:

1) "Are you of Hispanic or Spanish origin or descent?"

YES ___

NO ___

2) (If yes to preceding question) "Which of these Hispanic-origin groups best describes you?"

Puerto Rican ___

Mexican ___

Cuban, or ___

Some other group (SPECIFY) ______________________

3) Which of the groups on this card best describes you? Just give me the number.

WHITE ___ 01

BLACK ___ 02

INDIAN (American), ALEUT, ESKIMO ____ 03

ASIAN OR PACIFIC ISLANDER (Including Asian Indian) ___ 04

OTHER (Specify) ______________________ 05

As stipulated in Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, issued by the Office of Management and Budget (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1978), persons of Hispanic origin (first and second questions) may be of any race (third question). Both in the eleven-category racial/ethnic classification used in Chapters 3 and 4 and in the seven-category racial/ethnic classification used in Chapter 5, an individual's Hispanic origin takes precedence over any racial identification. For example, an individual who was identified as "Hispanic-Mexican" based on the first two questions and as "Indian (American), Aleut, Eskimo" based on the third question was classified as "Hispanic-Mexican" rather than as "Indian (American), Aleut, Eskimo." Similarly, the classifications "black" and "white" as used in this report refer to non-Hispanic blacks and to non-Hispanic whites, respectively.

Write-in responses to the second question, "some other group (SPECIFY)," were used to extend our list of Hispanic-origin groups from four to seven, including "Hispanic-Caribbean" (other than Puerto Rico and Cuban), "Hispanic-Central American" (other than Mexico), "Hispanic-South American," and "Hispanic-Other "other than Caribbean, Central American, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and South American).

Individuals who gave write-in responses to the third question, "OTHER (Specify)," and who were not Hispanic were usually recoded to one of the four explicit non-Hispanic racial categories—Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white. For example, individuals who reported that they were "African American" were recoded as "black," and individuals who reported that they were "Caucasian" were recoded as "white." A small number of respondents, less than 1%, were statistically imputed to a Hispanic origin or racial classification based on the interviewer-observed race of the respondent and on data on race and Hispanic origin that were collected during household screening. No information is collected on respondents’ citizenship or country of birth, and thus, no inferences can be made about either. Details of the recoding of "other Hispanic" and "other race" responses and of the statistical imputation procedures are available from SAMHSA.

Table 2.2 presents the sample sizes (combined 1991-93 NHSDAs) of the eleven racial/ethnic categories that are analyzed in Chapters 3 and 4, and the estimated number and percentage of NHSDA target population persons aged 12 and older in each racial/ethnic category. The eleven categories are grouped into five major categories: Native American (including American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut), Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white, and there are seven subcategories of Hispanic: Caribbean, Central American, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American, and other Hispanic. Also shown in Table 2.2 are the corresponding population estimates and population percentages of the eleven subgroups based on the 1990 U.S. Census. The population estimates based on the 1990 U.S. Census are larger, because the Census data are not restricted to individuals aged 12 and older, but the estimated population percentages based on the 1990 U.S. Census are closely similar to the corresponding percentages based on the combined 1991-93 NHSDAs.

To be sure, the similarity between NHSDA and Census estimates in Table 2.2 results in part from the procedures that are used to weight the NHSDA data. As discussed in SAMHSA (1993, 1995b, c), the NHSDA sampling weights are post-stratified to ensure that NHSDA estimates of the percentages of U.S. population in demographic subgroups defined by age, sex, Hispanic origin, and race are consistent with Census Bureau projections based on the 1990 Census. The post-stratification procedure explains why NHSDA and Census estimates of the percentages of Asian/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Non-Hispanic blacks, and Non-Hispanic whites are similar in Table 2.2. However, the post-stratification procedure does not fully explain the similarity between NHSDA and Census estimates of the percentages of Native Americans and Hispanic subgroups, because this procedure ensures consistency only for subgroups defined by two categories of Hispanic origin (Hispanic, non-Hispanic) and four categories of race (Asian/Pacific Islander, black, white, other).

Table 2.3 presents the sample sizes of the eleven racial/ethnic subgroups by age group (12 to 17, 18 to 25, 26 to 34, 35 and older), region (Northeast, North Central, South, West), and population density (metropolitan statistical area greater than 1 million, other MSA, and not in MSA). The sample sizes are especially small for Native Americans (n = 416), Hispanic-Caribbean (n = 611), Hispanic-Central American (n = 1,962), Hispanic-South American (n = 1,075), and other Hispanic (n = 1,181). The small sample sizes of these five subgroups explain why the eleven-category classification of Chapters 3 and 4 had to be reduced to only seven categories in the detailed analyses of Chapter 5. The racial/ethnic classification of Chapter 5 combines four Hispanic subgroups of Chapters 3 and 4—Caribbean, Central American, South American, and Other Hispanic—into an expanded "Other Hispanic" category, and Chapter 5 does not report results for Native Americans at all.

For brevity in this report, we refer to the Hispanic-Cuban subgroup as "Cubans," to the Hispanic-Mexico subgroup as "Mexicans," to the Hispanic-Puerto Rico subgroup as "Puerto Ricans," to the Hispanic-Caribbean subgroup as "Caribbeans," to the Hispanic-Central America subgroup as "Central Americans," and to the Hispanic-South America subgroup as "South Americans." Except in referring to the results of previous research, this report does not use the terms "Asian-American," "Cuban-American," "Mexican-American," "Puerto Rican-American," and so on. Yet it is worth emphasizing that all of the conclusions of this report pertain strictly to residents of the United States and do not pertain to residents of the countries and geographic areas whose names are used to designate U.S. racial/ethnic subgroups.

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This page was last updated on May 19, 2008.