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The Case of the Missing Ethnicity: Indians without Tribes in the 21st Century

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  • Carolyn Liebler
  • Meghan Zacher

Abstract

Among American Indians and Alaska Natives, most aspects of ethnicity are tightly associated with the person’s tribal origins. Language, history, foods, land, and traditions differ among the hundreds of tribes indigenous to the United States. Why did almost one million of them fail to respond to the tribal affiliation part of the Census 2000 race question? We investigate four hypotheses about why one-third of multiracial American Indians and one-sixth of single-race American Indians did not report a tribe: (1) survey item non-response which undermines all fillin- the-blank questions, (2) a non-salient tribal identity, (3) a genealogy-based affiliation, and (4) mestizo identity which does not require a tribe. We use multivariate logistic regression models and high-density restricted-use Census 2000 data. We find support for the first two hypotheses and note that the predictors and results differ substantially for single race versus multiple race American Indians.

Suggested Citation

  • Carolyn Liebler & Meghan Zacher, 2011. "The Case of the Missing Ethnicity: Indians without Tribes in the 21st Century," Working Papers 11-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-17
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-17.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2011
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    Keywords

    Ethnic identity; American Indian; U.S. Census; tribe;

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