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Multiracial Identity and the U.S. Census
(Released January 2010)

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  by Tyrone Nagai  

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Final Thoughts: The Future of Multiracial Identity in the U.S.

Contents

The 2010 U.S. Census will be only the second one in which respondents can choose more than one racial identity, and two of the ten questions deal with ethnicity and race. Question #8 asks about Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish race and ethnicity. Within the four affirmative boxes, twelve possible ethnic and racial identities are given, including a write-in box. Question #9 asks about four non-Hispanic racial groups. Within the 15 different boxes, twenty-six possible ethnic and racial identities are given, including three write-in boxes. Both questions suggest the growing and complex ethnic and racial diversity present in the U.S.

Most demographers expect to see an increase in the numbers and percentages of multiracial people in the 2010 U.S. Census and beyond. For example, Edmonston et al (2002) projected the racial composition of the U.S. population up to 2100. At that time the total U.S. population will eclipse 550 million people, and the racial composition of the country will be 38.8% white, 30.6% Hispanic, 15.6% black, 14.9% Asian and Pacific Islander, and 1% American Indian. Edmonston et al's (2002) model uses the existing racial categories set by the OMB, and they account for multiracial people by numerating them for each racial group that composes their identity. Thus, someone like Tiger Woods, a "Cablanasian," would essentially be counted as four people in their projection: one white, one black, one Native American, and one Asian. Edmonston et al (2002) also factored in immigration, fertility, and intermarriage to help the model account for expected demographic pressures.

part of census form

Project U.S. population by group

It is important to remember that Edmonston et al's (2002) projections are not predictions. The push-pull factors of immigration can swing greatly because of significant changes in global economic or environmental conditions. Fertility can also vary based on the distribution of age groups within U.S. society. An older population will tend to have lower fertility rates and a younger population will tend to have higher rates. As immigrants settle in the U.S. and the native-born population becomes more accepting of interracial relationships, an increase in the number of intermarriages and multiracial children is inevitable. On top of that, Bratter (2007) found that the intergenerational transmission of a multiracial identity is more common in contexts of racial diversity. If the U.S. continues to become more racially diverse as demographers predict, then multiracial identities could one day be the norm. In light of the future and present situation of multiracial people, Root (1996) went so far as to create a "Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People." One can only wonder if such language will ever make its way into the United States Constitution, but given demographic predictions perhaps it will. And if it does, how will it affect the census? Time will tell.

I HAVE THE RIGHT. . .
  • Not to justify my existence in this world.
  • Not to keep the races separate within me.
  • Not to be responsible for people's discomfort with my physical ambiguity.
  • Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
I HAVE THE RIGHT. . .
  • To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
  • To identify myself differently from how my parents identify me.
  • To identify myself differently from my brothers and sisters.
  • To identify myself differently in different situations.
I HAVE THE RIGHT. . .
  • To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial.
  • To change my identity over my lifetime -- and more than once.
  • To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
  • To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© 2010, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

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