New Race Question, The

New Race Question, The: How the Census Counts Multiracial Individuals

Joel Perlmann
Mary C. Waters
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 412
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610444477
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  • Book Info
    New Race Question, The
    Book Description:

    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 Questionis 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 Questionopens 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 book concludes with a discussion of the politics of racial enumeration. Hugh Davis Graham examines recent history to ask why some groups were determined to be worthy of special government protections and programs, while others were not. Posing the volume's ultimate question, Jennifer Hochschild asks whether the official recognition of multiracials marks the beginning of the end of federal use of race data, and whether that is a good or a bad thing for society?

    The New Race Questionbrings 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.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    Copublished with the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-447-7
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Joel Perlmann and Mary C. Waters
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-30)
    Joel Perlmann and Mary C. Waters

    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 will get only a footnote; the change in the race question will get a chapter. Indeed, the 2000 census race question has opened the door to a new way of...

  6. PART I WHAT DO WE KNOW FROM COUNTING MULTIRACIALS?
    • 1 RACIAL IDENTITIES IN 2000: THE RESPONSE TO THE MULTIPLE-RACE RESPONSE OPTION
      (pp. 33-61)
      Reynolds Farley

      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.

      Classifying the population by race has been controversial since the Constitution was first drafted. The past century and a half have seen spirited debates in Congress preceding each census, debates focused on how race questions will be asked...

    • 2 DOES IT MATTER HOW WE MEASURE? RACIAL CLASSIFICATION AND THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MULTIRACIAL YOUTH
      (pp. 62-101)
      David R. Harris

      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 (Martin Kasindorf and Haya El Nasser, “Impact of Census’ Race Data Debated,”USA Today, March 13, 2001, A1; Eric Schmitt,...

    • 3 MIXED RACE AND ETHNICITY IN CALIFORNIA
      (pp. 102-116)
      Sonya M. Tafoya

      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). California’s racial and ethnic diversity derives largely from immigration, yet even without further immigration the growing occurrence of mixed racial...

  7. PART II HOW MUCH WILL IT MATTER?
    • 4 BACK IN THE BOX: THE DILEMMA OF USING MULTIPLE-RACE DATA FOR SINGLE-RACE LAWS
      (pp. 119-136)
      Joshua R. Goldstein and Ann J. Morning

      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 before the 2000 census, however, the OMB issued guidelines for the use of multiple-race data: for civil and voting rights purposes, people who marked “white” and a nonwhite race should be counted as members...

    • 5 INADEQUACIES OF MULTIPLE-RESPONSE RACE DATA IN THE FEDERAL STATISTICAL SYSTEM
      (pp. 137-160)
      Roderick J. Harrison

      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. The “push” was the revision of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directives for classifying race and ethnicity, mandating that all federal collections allow respondents to report more than one race. How to tabulate those responses for the various purposes for...

    • 6 THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF A MULTIRACIAL CENSUS
      (pp. 161-186)
      Nathaniel Persily

      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.

      Although the short-term legal implications will most likely be minor, the shift in census format from a single response to multiple expressions of racial identity...

  8. PART III A MULTIRACIAL FUTURE?
    • 7 AMERICAN INDIANS: CLUES TO THE FUTURE OF OTHER RACIAL GROUPS
      (pp. 189-214)
      C. Matthew Snipp

      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 to be used by all federal agencies, its grantees, and its contractors for the collection of racial data....

    • 8 CENSUS BUREAU LONG-TERM RACIAL PROJECTIONS: INTERPRETING THEIR RESULTS AND SEEKING THEIR RATIONALE
      (pp. 215-226)
      Joel Perlmann

      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). The child of two Hispanics will marry another Hispanic; and so too their great-great grandchild...

    • 9 RECENT TRENDS IN INTERMARRIAGE AND IMMIGRATION AND THEIR EFFECTS ON THE FUTURE RACIAL COMPOSITION OF THE U.S. POPULATION
      (pp. 227-256)
      Barry Edmonston, Sharon M. Lee and Jeffrey S. Passel

      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. When immigrants from...

  9. PART IV THE POLITICS OF RACE NUMBERS
    • 10 HISTORY, HISTORICITY, AND THE CENSUS COUNT BY RACE
      (pp. 259-262)
      Matthew Frye Jacobson

      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.

      The first major theme running through these essays is the long history of the state’s practice of counting by race: the 2000 census is only the most recent chapter...

    • 11 WHAT RACE ARE YOU?
      (pp. 263-268)
      Werner Sollors

      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). Verena Stolcke has shown that the word “race” could mean “the succession of generations (de raza en raza) as well as all the members of a given...

    • 12 COUNTING BY RACE: THE ANTEBELLUM LEGACY
      (pp. 269-287)
      Margo J. Anderson

      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. The particular character of race classifications and the meanings attached to them must be understood as emerging from these conflicts among states and the failure of the founding generations of...

    • 13 THE ORIGINS OF OFFICIAL MINORITY DESIGNATION
      (pp. 288-299)
      Hugh Davis Graham

      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. Also in California, Asian and Latino entrepreneurs, many of them immigrants, surpassed African Americans in winning minority business enterprise contracts. Nationwide, the controversy over including a new multiracial category in the 2000 census raised...

    • 14 LESSONS FROM BRAZIL: THE IDEATIONAL AND POLITICAL DIMENSIONS OF MULTIRACIALITY
      (pp. 300-317)
      Melissa Nobles

      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. Up through the midtwentieth century, Brazilian census texts happily reported the “whitening” of the population. Since...

    • 15 REFLECTIONS ON RACE, HISPANICITY, AND ANCESTRY IN THE U.S. CENSUS
      (pp. 318-326)
      Nathan Glazer

      A few 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. These questions had evolved by the 1980 and 1990 censuses in a way that was to my mind false to American racial and ethnic reality and incapable of getting coherent responses, to the degree that that is...

    • 16 MULTIRACIALISM AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE
      (pp. 327-339)
      Peter Skerry

      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. Yet at the same time, the provenance of the multiracial option was an unlikely alliance between multiracial advocates and conservative Republicans, two groups whose understandings of race in contemporary American society seem, in spite of their obvious differences,...

    • 17 MULTIPLE RACIAL IDENTIFIERS IN THE 2000 CENSUS, AND THEN WHAT?
      (pp. 340-353)
      Jennifer L. Hochschild

      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. We do not know how it will turn out, and we do not have a clear goal or set of goals at which we are aiming. It is an...

    • 18 RACE IN THE 2000 CENSUS: A TURNING POINT
      (pp. 354-362)
      Kenneth Prewitt

      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

      the design and impact of the first-ever paid advertising campaign, coupled with an unprecedented effort by the Census Bureau to form partnerships with groups and organizations positioned to assist the bureau in motivating the public to cooperate...

  10. Appendix: BRIDGING FROM OLD TO NEW
    • 19 COMPARING CENSUS RACE DATA UNDER THE OLD AND NEW STANDARDS
      (pp. 365-390)
      Clyde Tucker, Steve Miller and Jennifer Parker

      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.

      It should not be assumed that bridging is useful or required in every situation. Users should carefully consider whether they need bridging estimates. Bridging estimates may not be needed if the user can tolerate a “break”...

  11. Index
    (pp. 391-398)