The New Race Question: How the Census Counts Multiracial Individuals

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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 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 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.

A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

Copublished with the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871546579
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Series: Russell Sage Foundation Census Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 412
  • Product dimensions: 6.92 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

JOEL PERLMANN is senior scholar and research professor at the Levy Economics Institute, Bard College.

MARY C. WATERS is professor of sociology, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I What do We Know from Counting Multiracials?
Ch. 1 Racial Identities in 2000: The Response to the Multiple-Race Response Option 33
Ch. 2 Does it Matter How We Measure? Racial Classification and the Characteristics of Multiracial Youth 62
Ch. 3 Mixed Race and Ethnicity in California 102
Pt. II How Much Will it Matter?
Ch. 4 Back in the Box: The Dilemma of Using Multiple-Race Data for Single-Race Laws 119
Ch. 5 Inadequacies of Multiple-Response Race Data in the Federal Statistical System 137
Ch. 6 The Legal Implications of a Multiracial Census 161
Pt. III A Multiracial Future?
Ch. 7 American Indians: Clues to the Future of Other Racial Groups 189
Ch. 8 Census Bureau Long-Term Racial Projections: Interpreting their Results and Seeking their Rationale 215
Ch. 9 Recent Trends in Intermarriage and Immigration and their Effects on the Future Racial Composition of the U.S. Population 227
Pt. IV The Politics of Race Numbers
Ch. 10 History, Historicity, and the Census Count by Race 259
Ch. 11 What Race are You? 263
Ch. 12 Counting by Race: The Antebellum Legacy 269
Ch. 13 The Origins of Official Minority Designation 288
Ch. 14 Lessons from Brazil: The Ideational and Political Dimensions of Multiraciality 300
Ch. 15 Reflections on Race, Hispanicity, and Ancestry in the U.S. Census 318
Ch. 16 Multiracialism and the Administrative State 327
Ch. 17 Multiple Racial Identifiers in the 2000 Census, and then What? 340
Ch. 18 Race in the 2000 Census: A Turning Point 354
App.: Bridging from Old to New 363
Ch. 19 Comparing Census Race Data Under the Old and the New Standards 365
Index 391
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