October 7, 2021

When researchers want to speak to the U.S. population, they use nationally representative samples to conduct their work. When they want to speak to the needs and strengths of underserved communities, they use subsamples. What do both situations have in common? They likely include—or ought to include—strong Latinx/Hispanic representation.

Latinx/Hispanics make up 18% of the U.S. population, 26% of the child population, and 28% of the people who currently live in poverty. Census data shows that the Latinx/Hispanic community—with its diversity of languages, customs, and racial compositions—is likely to grow to a third of the country’s population by 2060. Whether Latinx/Hispanics are your target audience or not, it’s probably wise to include them in your projects.

My experience as a foreign-born Latina researcher based in the United States is that it takes deep methodological and financial commitments to include Latinx/Hispanics as participants. Below I offer a series of questions—informed by my experiences in research—that researchers can use to level the playing field for Latinx/Hispanic participants, ensuring that their values, norms, and assets are accounted for at key points of the research process.

Research Design

  • How do our research questions build on community strengths and account for systemic disparities?
  • What demographic data can contextualize Latinx/Hispanic contributions and what’s the best way to gather it?
  • How do our measures and outcomes reflect Latinx/Hispanic values?

Recruitment

  • What formats (e.g., video, audio, in person) and channels (e.g., WhatsApp, Facebook) can we use to build more inclusive recruitment practices?
  • What automated messages (signatures, voice mails, survey pop-ups) must we translate?
  • What Latinx/Hispanic holidays or events must we acknowledge or avoid?

Data Collection

  • What language(s) should we assess, survey, or interview participants in, and how does this vary by age or nativity status?
  • How much time and money do we need to collect data in the target language(s) and translate it back to English?
  • What opportunities can we offer participants to produce their own definitions of key terms and make authentic contributions?

Analysis

  • How can we bring our findings to the communities we worked with in a timely manner?
  • How can we use systems-level factors to explain relationships in the data?
  • What caveats must we make about the Latinx/Hispanic subgroups that our research speaks to?

I encourage you to use these and other questions as you prepare to engage Latinx/Hispanic participants in your work. The more you engage, the better positioned you’ll be to speak to and for a growing portion of the U.S. population.

What other questions have you used? We’d love to hear about them.

Alexia Raynal is a researcher at EDC’s Center for Children and Technology who was born and raised in Mexico. She helps develop and evaluate technology-enabled programs designed to support informal learning for Latinx families and multilingual learners.

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