A Sign of the Times

September 27, 2000 2 min read

One sign of America’s growing diversity is the change that took place in the U.S. Census this year. For the first time, Americans were able to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race. The change occurred after some 50,000 multiracial, multiethnic Americans demanded a category that more accurately reflected their backgrounds.

In California today, the third-largest category of births is to couples in which the father’s race or ethnicity differs from the mother’s. “The percent of births that could be categorized as multiracial or multiethnic has increased substantially among U.S.-born residents of the state,” says demographer Hans P. Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California. “As California increasingly is comprised of second- and third-generation immigrants, I think we’ll see this trend continue.”

Nationally, for example, more than 35 percent of Hispanics with four-year college degrees cross racial or ethnic lines when they marry, and the intermarriage rate is one in three for Hispanics in the top income brackets, notes demographer William H. Frey. A fifth of all married Asian-American women also have chosen a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. Interracial marriages are less common among African-Americans. “In those areas I like to call the melting-pot regions of the country, there already are very high rates of intermarriage,” says Frey, a senior fellow at the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken Institute. In the Golden State, nearly one out of every 12 non-Hispanic whites who get married weds an Asian or a Hispanic.

“More and more people are beginning to say, ‘Race should not be a description of my children in any way, form, or shape,’ because it doesn’t matter to them,” demographer Harold L. Hodgkinson says. “In a way, we’re back to Martin Luther King’s idea that children should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Excerpt From the 2000 Census Form

4 NOTE: Please answer BOTH Questions 5 and 6

Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino? Mark x the “No” box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino

o No, not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino
o Yes, Mexican, Mexican Aam., Chicano
o Yes, Puerto Rican
o Yes, Cuban
o Yes, other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino--Print group.

What is this person’s race? Mark x one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be.

o White
o Black, African Am., or Negro
o American Indian or Alaska Native--Print name of enrolled or principal tribe.

o Asian Indian
o Chinese
o Filipino
o Japanese
o Korean
o Vietnamese
o Other Asian--Print race.
o Native Hawaiian
o Guamanian or Chamorro
o Samoan
o Other Pacific Islander--Print race.
o Some other race--Print race.