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New Race Question, The

How the Census Counts Multiracial Individuals

Joel Perlmann, Mary C. Waters

Publication Year: 2005

The change in the way the federal government asked for information about race in the 2000 census marked an important turning point in the way Americans measure race. By allowing respondents to choose more than one racial category for the first time, the Census Bureau challenged strongly held beliefs about the nature and definition of race in our society. The New Race Question is a wide-ranging examination of what we know about racial enumeration, the likely effects of the census change, and possible policy implications for the future. The growing incidence of interracial marriage and childrearing led to the change in the census race question. Yet this reality conflicts with the need for clear racial categories required by anti-discrimination and voting rights laws and affirmative action policies. How will racial combinations be aggregated under the Census's new race question? Who will decide how a respondent who lists more than one race will be counted? How will the change affect established policies for documenting and redressing discrimination? The New Race Question opens with an exploration of what the attempt to count multiracials has shown in previous censuses and other large surveys. Contributor Reynolds Farley reviews the way in which the census has traditionally measured race, and shows that although the numbers of people choosing more than one race are not high at the national level, they can make a real difference in population totals at the county level. The book then takes up the debate over how the change in measurement will affect national policy in areas that rely on race counts, especially in civil rights law, but also in health, education, and income reporting. How do we relate data on poverty, graduation rates, and disease collected in 2000 to the rates calculated under the old race question? A technical appendix provides a useful manual for bridging old census data to new. The New Race Question brings to light the many ways in which a seemingly small change in surveying and categorizing race can have far reaching effects and expose deep fissures in our society.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

It is difficult to imagine how editing a volume of essays could have been smoother or simpler. The two editors enjoyed working together throughout. Our authors were excited by the topic, interested in each other’s work, grateful for suggestions about revision, and even attentive to them. All of the intellectual excitement that this project engendered, first at a conference and since in the creation of this volume...

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Joel Perlmann, Mary C. Waters

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pp. 1-30

Bitterly fought controversies surrounded the late-twentieth century censuses in the United States, and in particular the 1990 census, over the issue of population undercounts and possible adjustments. Such controversies drew attention again in connection with Census 2000. Yet Kenneth Prewitt, the director of the Census Bureau during the 2000 enumeration, writes in this volume that when historians look back on the history of the census, the debates over the undercount...

Part 1. What Do We Know From Counting Multiracials?

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pp. 31-32

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1. Racial Identities in 2000: The Response to the Multiple-Race Response Option

Reynolds Farley

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pp. 33-61

The greatest change in the measurement of race in the history of the United States occurred in the census of 2000. For more than two centuries, the federal statistical system had classified each respondent into a single race. That is no longer the case. According to the new rules, anyone may now identity with as many races as he or she desires...

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2. Does It Matter How We Measure? Racial Classification and the Characteristics of Multiracial Youth

David R. Harris

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pp. 62-101

On March 12, 2001, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that in the 2000 census, 2.4 percent of Americans had identified with two or more racial groups. This count, the first in census history to enumerate the multiracial U.S. population, has received significant attention from academics, news organizations, and advocacy groups and has been used to support a variety of claims about the increasing diversity of U.S. society, the declining significance of race, and the blurring of lines between racial groups...

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3. Mixed Race and Ethnicity in California

Sonya M. Tafoya

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pp. 102-116

Over the past thirty years, California has undergone a phenomenal demographic transformation.1 As recently as 1970, nearly 80 percent of the state’s population was classified as white, non-Hispanic (Reyes 2001). By 1999, only 50 percent of the population was estimated to be white, non-Hispanic, whereas 31.6 percent was classified as Hispanic, 12.2 percent as Asian or Pacific Islander, 7.5 percent as black or African American, and fewer than 1 percent as American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut (U.S. Census Bureau 1999a)...

Part 2. How Much Will It Matter?

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pp. 117-118

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4. Back in the Box: The Dilemma of Using Multiple-Race Data For Single-Race Laws

Joshua R. Goldstein, Ann J. Morning

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pp. 119-136

How are multiple-race statistics to be used to enforce laws created in the single-race era? The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued revised standards for racial and ethnic statistics,allowing respondents for the first time to mark multiple races on federal forms, including census forms, in 1997. It was not known at the time how multiple-race data would be processed, tabulated, or used. Just weeks be-fore the 2000 census, however, the OMB issued guidelines for the use of...

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5. Inadequacies of Multiple-Response Race Data in the Federal Statistical System

Roderick J. Harrison

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pp. 137-160

"Humpty” is, of course, the federal statistical system for classifying race and ethnicity for purposes of measuring and monitoring racial and ethnic differentials in the social, economic, health, education, housing, and other conditions of the population and, where appropriate, for investigating and determining which conditions result from discrimination that violates the civil rights of racial and ethnic minorities...

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6. The Legal Implications of a Multiracial Census

Nathaniel Persily

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pp. 161-186

Because it destabilizes established notions and measures of race, the move to a census race question that allows for multiple responses presents novel challenges for social scientists and policy makers. The chief effect of the new format for racial data, however, may be determined as much in the courtroom as in the computer lab. Lawyers and judges, to a large extent, will help decide the societal impact of this new means of expressing racial identity...

Part 3. A Multiracial Future?

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pp. 187-188

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7. American Indians: Clues to the Future of Other Racial Groups

C. Matthew Snipp

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pp. 189-214

Racial classifications serve as the framework for what is known about the social and cultural diversity of American society. Since 1790, the federal government has kept track of the racial composition of the United States, albeit with a system that has evolved slowly and has been shaped by notions about the substance of racial differences. In 1976, the federal government issued a document, known as Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Directive 15, that sought to impose a standard set of categories...

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8. Census Bureau Long-Term Racial Projections: Interpreting Their Results and Seeking Their Rationale

Joel Perlmann

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pp. 215-226

Racial and ethnic projections are connected to the themes of this volume because the projections, like other federal race classifications and tabulations, must find ways to deal with interracial marriages and especially with the offspring of those marriages.1 Yet today the Census Bureau does not build future intermarriages into the racial and ethnic projection models. Instead, the offspring of today’s interracial marriages are assigned the race of the mother, and all future marriages are modeled within single racial categories (or within Hispanic and non-Hispanic ethnicity)...

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9. Recent Trends in Intermarriage and Immigration and Their Effects on the Future Racial Composition of the U.S. Population

Barry Edmonston, Sharon M. Lee, Jeffrey S. Passel

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pp. 227-256

Throughout U.S. history, immigration has been a major force in shaping population growth and ethnic composition. As the countries of origin of immigrants shifted, so did the ethnic composition of the nation’s population. The role of immigration was and remains closely linked to a second major force in U.S. society: beliefs and attitudes about race. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the creation of the “barred zone” (the Asia-Pacific triangle) in 1917, and the implementation of national origins quotas in immigration laws in the 1920s exemplify the influence of racial attitudes on immigration policies...

Part 4. The Politics of Race Numbers

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pp. 257-258

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10. History, Historicity, and the Census Count by Race

Matthew Frye Jacobson

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pp. 259-262

Although few use the words “moral” or “morality” in their discussion of census taking, the urgency and the tone of much of the recent debate suggest that many in fact do see questions of morality attaching to this matter of counting by race. Allow me to underscore some of the major themes that unite the essays of this collection and to articulate some of the problems they raise as moral problems...

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11. What Race Are You?

Werner Sollors

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pp. 263-268

In the five hundred years of its existence, the word “race” has probably done more harm than good. Derived from the Italian “razza,” the Spanish and Castilian “raza,” and the Portuguese “raça,” the word became widespread in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. An English example from 1570, referring to the “race & stocke of Abraham,” supports the theory that the obscure ultimate roots of “race” may lie in the word “generation” (Oxford English Dictionary)...

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12. Counting by Race: The Antebellum Legacy

Margo J. Anderson

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pp. 269-287

Americans made “counting by race” a state practice during the revolutionary and antebellum eras. Revolutionary leaders invented the practice of counting the slave and free populations to allocate tax obligations at the federal level. They expanded the practice to allocate political representation among the states in the federal Constitution. After 1820, Congress elaborated on the practice as it tried unsuccessfully to forestall the political crisis over slavery and civil war...

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13. The Origins of Official Minority Designation

Hugh Davis Graham

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pp. 288-299

The final decade of the twentieth century was marked by intense controversy in the United States over the role of race and ethnicity in government policy. The U.S. Supreme Court sharply narrowed the scope of race-conscious affirmative action in government contracting and electoral redistricting. In California, voters passed initiatives curbing state services to illegal immigrants and barring minority preferences in employment, contracts, and higher education admissions...

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14. Lessons from Brazil: The Ideational and Political Dimensions of Multiraciality

Melissa Nobles

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pp. 300-317

Americans have long perceived Brazil as a multiracial society. Positive assessments have flowed from this perception, the most important being that Brazil is a relatively, if not absolutely, harmonious society. By “harmonious” it is meant that social, political, and economic life is not now, nor has it been, rigidly marked by racial lines. These views of Brazil have been created and advanced, in important ways, by the methods of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and its official interpretations of color data...

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15. Reflections on Race, Hispanicity, and Ancestry in the U.S. Census

Nathan Glazer

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pp. 318-326

Afew years ago, when I was asked to comment on the controversy over how best to handle the demand of so-called multiracial advocacy groups for a “multiracial” category in the census, I made a brash and wildly unrealistic proposal.1 Before describing my proposal, however, I should explain what concerned me about the existing questions on race, Hispanicity, and ancestry in the census...

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16. Multiracialism and the Administrative State

Peter Skerry

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pp. 327-339

The 2000 census was the first in U.S. history to offer respondents the option of identifying themselves as belonging to more than one race. This multiracial option was considered a necessary adaptation to the demographic and cultural changes that the United States has been experiencing. The civil rights lobby, which resisted this change, has by and large been fighting a rearguard action...

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17. Multiple Racial Identifiers in the 2000 Census, and Then What?

Jennifer L. Hochschild

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pp. 340-353

Led, ironically, by the Census Bureau, which used to be seen as a stodgy data collector, the United States is embarking on a dramatic experiment that will change the way our government counts races and recognizes multiracials. This experiment will have repercussions on a wide range of attitudes and activities, from individual self-identification through corporate advertising budgets to allocations of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and millions of people into voting districts...

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18. Race in the 2000 Census: a Turning Point

Kenneth Prewitt

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pp. 354-362

Imagine yourself in 2050, writing a history of Census 2000. What issues would be prominent? Here is a plausible list: • the fierce partisan debate focused on whether dual-system estimation (statistical sampling) should be used to adjust for census coverage errors • the resulting extraordinary level of oversight exercised by both the legislative and executive branches and the resort to litigation to influence census methodology...

Appendix. Bridging from Old to New

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pp. 363-364

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19. Comparing Census Race Data under the Old and New Standards

Clyde Tucker, Steve Miller, Jennifer Parker

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pp. 365-390

Data users who are interested in time trends for economic, social, and health characteristics by racial and ethnic groups may need to consider bridging methods for understanding the census data collected under the new standard. The “bridging estimate” predicts how the responses would have been collected and coded under the old standard. It is designed for use in analyzing historical trends in data series...


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pp. 391-398

E-ISBN-13: 9781610444477
E-ISBN-10: 1610444477

Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2005