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Millions of Americans Changed their Racial/Ethnic Identity from 2000 Census to 2010 Census

Posted on

May 9, 2014
2010 U.S. Census



The Pew Research Center reports:

"Millions of Americans counted in the 2000 census changed their race or Hispanic-origin categories when they filled out their 2010 census forms, according to new research presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting last week...

Why? There are many possibilities, although the researchers did not present any hard conclusions. By some measures, the data provide more evidence of Americans’ puzzlement about how the census asks separately about race and ethnicity. (The Census Bureau is considering revising its race and ethnicity questions for the next census, in 2020, in hopes of matching better how Americans think about this topic.)"

Watch Nicholas A. Jones, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's Racial Statistics Branch, explain these exciting new developments for the 2020 census form here. The Pew Research Center report continues:

"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. Another 1.3 million people made the switch in the other direction. Hispanics account for most of the growing number and share of Americans who check “some other race” on the census form. Many do not identify with a specific racial group or think of Hispanic as a race, even though it is an ethnicity in the federal statistical system. Census officials added new instructions on the 2010 census form stating that Hispanic ethnicity is not a race in an attempt to persuade people to choose a specific group. (That change, as well as other wording edits in the instructions to respondents between 2000 and 2010 may be one reason some people switched. The order of the questions and the offered categories did not change.) The Census Bureau is also testing a new race and Hispanic question that combines all the options in one place, rather than asking separately about race and Hispanic origin.

The images above show the 2010 U.S. Census form and it's wording and options for Race and Hispanic Origin and also how these same questions were phrased on the 2000 U.S. Census form (via RaceBox.org).  2000 was the first time multiracial people were allowed to check more than one box in the Race category and interestingly:

"Only one-third of Americans who checked more than one race in 2000 kept the same categories in 2010, according to preliminary data."

Read the full Pew Research Center article here.