(Article) Who Chooses to Choose
Who Chooses to Choose two?
by Sonya M. Tafoya, Hans Johnson, and Laura E. Hill
The following excerpt is from the report "Who Chooses to
Choose Two? Multiracial Identification and Census 2000,"
by Sonya M. Tafoya, Hans Johnson, and Laura E. Hill, and published by
the Russell Sage Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau.
This report is one of several in the new series The American People,
which sets the results of Census 2000 in context and collectively
provides a portrait of the American people in a new century.
(June 2004) Racial identity in the United States
is first established within the context of families.
In the census, parents report the
"racial" 'identity' of their children.
To what extent do parents of different races
identify their children as Multi-Racial?
Do patterns of Multi-Racial reporting depend
on the specific race of each parent?
In the most common intermarriage case where one parent
is 'White' and one is 'non-White', does reporting depend on
whether it is the mother or the father who is 'non-White?
One of the most striking results of the 2000 Census is that most
Inter-Racial couples do not report their children as Multi-Racial.
Overall, we estimated that less than half (44 percent) of children
living with parents of different races are identified as Multi-Racial.
The proportions are especially low for two of the
largest [interracial] groups, with only 13 percent
of American Indian/White couples and only 3
percent of Latino SOR**/White couples identifying
their children as [mixed-race] (see Table 1).
**SOR denotes "Some Other Race."
~~ AIAN denotes "American Indian / Alaskan Native"
^^ A slash-mark "</>" denotes the racial identification of married couples.
For example, a couple in which one partner is Black and the
other partner is Asian is described as a Black/Asian couple.)
as Multi-Racial, by
Parent's Race, 2000
Black / White
AIAN ~~/ White
Asian / White
Hispanic / White
Predicted percentages based
on author's regression models.
Author's calculations using
Census 2000 1 % Public Use
Microdata Sample (PUMS).
The likelihood of reporting a child
as Multi-Racial depends very
much on the specific "racial"
combination of the parents.
Children of Asian/White and
Black / White interracial couples
are far more likely to report
their child as Multi-Racial
than American-Indian / White,
non-Latino SOR** / White, and
Latino SOR** / White parents.
However, even among Asian/White and
Black/White couples, only about half
report their children as Multi-Racial.
Among Black/White couples, most
who do not report their children as
Multi-Racial report them as "black".
Among Asian/White and
Latino SOR** / White couples,
most who do not report their children
as Multi-Racial report them as White.
are about evenly divided between
reporting their children as only
American-Indian or only-White.
Just as the levels of Multi-Racial reporting
vary between the racial combinations of the
parents, we believe that the reasons for
Multi-Racial reporting are particular to
each combination of [interracial] parents.
The very low levels of Multi-Racial reporting among
American-Indian / White couples may be due to the
nature of the American-Indian population in the United States.
That population includes a large number of people of Mixed-Ancestry
with varying degrees of strength in an AIAN~~ identity.1
Those who strongly identify as American-Indian
are likely to report their children as Mono-Racial
American-Indian, even if one parent is White.
Most American-Indian tribes allow as members individuals
who have only one "full-blooded" grandparent.2
Thus, an AIAN~~ parent who has strong ancestral
connections to a tribe is likely to report his or her
child as American-Indian regardless of spouse ethnicity.
Those who do not strongly identify as AIAN~~, an apparently large and
perhaps growing share of the AIAN~~ population in the United States,
and who have a child with a White spouse, report the child as White.
The low levels of Multi-Racial reporting among Latino
[Interracial] SOR**/White couples can be attributed to the
prominence of Latino ' identity' rather than "racial" 'identity'.
For many Latinos, the "racial" categories
on the census are 'not meaningful'.
Large proportions of Latinos respond that they are SOR**, and
even slightly larger proportions respond that they are White.
A large majority of Latinos would prefer to have
"Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin" added to
the list of "racial" categories used in the census.3
For many Latinos, the choice between
SOR** and White is somewhat 'arbitrary'.
Choosing both 'identities' for their children would be
superfluous, since the Latino 'identity' is most salient.
Couples most likely to identify their
children as Multi-Racial are those in
which both parents are Multi-Racial:
83 percent of such couples report their
children to be more than one "race"...
their children represent a substantial
share of all Multi-Racial children.
Indeed, 25 percent of Multi-Racial children
in the United States have parents that
both identify as Multi-Racial ...
Even having only one Multi-Racial parent
leads to a relatively high probability of a
child being identified as Multi-Racial.
Altogether, over half of Multi-Racial children
have at least one Multi-Racial parent.
- Matthew Snipp, "American Indians: Clues to the Future of Other
Racial Groups," in The New Race Question: How the Census
Counts Multiracial Individuals, ed. Joel Perlmann and Mary
C. Waters (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002).
- Russell Thornton, "Tribal Membership Requirements
and the Demography of Old and New Native Americans,"
in Changing Numbers, Changing Needs, ed. Gary D.
Sandefur, Ronald R. Rindfuss, and Barney Cohen
(Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1996).
- Clyde R. Tucker et al., Testing Methods of Collecting
Racial and Ethnic Information: Results of the Current
Population Survey Supplement on Race and
Ethnicity," Statistical Notes, no. 40 (1996).
Copyright 2006, Population Reference Bureau. All rights reserved.