Who Are You? Millions Of Americans Have Changed Their Race From One Census To Another

May 6, 2014  |  

When it comes to selecting their ethnic make up, some folks are doing a switcheroo on the U.S. Census. More than 10 million Americans changed their race or Hispanic-origin categories when they filled out their 2010 Census forms in comparison to what they previously selected in the 2000 census, out of a total of 168 million. According to new research presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting, Hispanics, Americans of mixed race, American Indians and Pacific Islanders were some of those who were most likely to choose different boxes from one Census to the next, reports Pew Research.

While the research did not draw conclusions about the reason behind the changes, some experts say it could be confusion about the selections. The Census Bureau is thinking about revisiting its race and ethnicity questions for the 2020 Census to make the options more definitive.

However, others say there could be different reasons for the changes, since it occurred in some groups more than others. According to study co-author Carolyn A. Liebler, a University of Minnesota sociologist, those who called themselves non-Hispanic white, black or Asian in 2000 were less likely to alter their category in 2010.

“The largest number of those who changed their race/ethnicity category were 2.5 million Americans who said they were Hispanic and some other race in 2000, but a decade later, told the Census they were Hispanic and white, preliminary data showed,” reports Pew. And surprisingly, 1.3 million American switched the other way. Also more than a million Americans switched from non-Hispanic white to Hispanic white, or vice versa. Hispanics are most likely to check “some other race.”

On the 2010 Census, new instructions indicated that Hispanic ethnicity is not a race in an effort to get people to select a specific race. But now the Bureau is testing a new race and Hispanic question that combines all the options in one place like black Hispanic, white Hispanic, etc.

The data also found that more than 775,000 switched in one direction or the other between white and American Indian or only white.

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