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The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the US Population: Emerging American Identities

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  • Anthony Daniel Perez
  • Charles Hirschman

Abstract

Images and interpretations of the past, present, and future of the American racial and ethnic landscape are contradictory. Many accounts focus on the increasing diversity that results from immigration and differential natural increase as well as the proliferation of racial and ethnic categories in census data. Less attention has been paid to the formation and erosion of racial and ethnic identities produced by intermarriage and ethnic blending. The framers and custodians of census racial classifications assume a "geographic origins" definition of race and ethnicity, but the "de facto" measures in censuses and social surveys rely on folk categories that vary over time and are influenced by administrative practices and sociopolitical movements. We illustrate these issues through an in-depth examination of the racial and ethnic reporting by whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics in the 2000 census. The emerging pattern, labeled here as the "Americanization" of racial and ethnic identities, and most evident for whites and blacks, is of simplified racial identities with little acknowledgment of complex ancestries. National origin is the predominant mode of reporting racial and ethnic identities among Asians and Hispanics, especially first-generation immigrants. The future of racial and ethnic identities is unknowable, but continued high levels of immigration, intermarriage, and social mobility are likely to blur contemporary divisions and boundaries. Copyright (c) 2009 The Population Council, Inc..

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  • Anthony Daniel Perez & Charles Hirschman, 2009. "The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the US Population: Emerging American Identities," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(1), pages 1-51.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:35:y:2009:i:1:p:1-51
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2011. "Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 195-227.
    2. Guang Guo & Yilan Fu & Hedwig Lee & Tianji Cai & Kathleen Mullan Harris & Yi Li, 2014. "Genetic Bio-Ancestry and Social Construction of Racial Classification in Social Surveys in the Contemporary United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(1), pages 141-172, February.
    3. Daniel Lichter, 2013. "Integration or Fragmentation? Racial Diversity and the American Future," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 359-391, April.
    4. Jen’nan Read, 2013. "Measuring Ethnicity with U.S. Census Data: Implications for Mexicans and Arabs," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 32(4), pages 611-631, August.
    5. David Coleman, 2009. "Divergent Patterns in the Ethnic Transformation of Societies," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(3), pages 449-478.
    6. David Coleman, 2010. "Projections of the Ethnic Minority Populations of the United Kingdom 2006-2056," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(3), pages 441-486.
    7. Kenneth M. Johnson & Daniel T. Lichter, 2010. "Growing Diversity among America's Children and Youth: Spatial and Temporal Dimensions," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(1), pages 151-176.
    8. Zhenchao Qian & Jennifer Glick & Christie Batson, 2012. "Crossing Boundaries: Nativity, Ethnicity, and Mate Selection," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(2), pages 651-675, May.

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