Estimate that 8.3% of Americans changed racial or ethnic identity between the 2000 and 2010 Census

A new study provides a reminder of the fluidity of racial and ethnic identities as a number of Americans reported different identities on the 2000 and 2010 Census:

The report showed that 1 in 16 people — or approximately 9.8 million of 162 million — who responded to both the 2000 and 2010 censuses gave different answers when it came to race and ethnicity.If extrapolated across the entire population, that would mean that 8.3 percent of people in the United States would have made a change in their racial or ethnic identity in that decade, according to the paper authored by Sonya Rastogi, Leticia E. Fernandez, James M. Noon and Sharon R. Ennis of the U.S. Census Bureau and Carolyn A. Liebler of the University of Minnesota.

The largest change was from Hispanic (some other race) to Hispanic white, with 2.38 million people making that change on their census forms. But the next greatest change was from Hispanic white to Hispanic (some other race), with 1.2 million people deciding that designation fit them better. Put together, these two changes make up more than a third (37 percent) of the race/ethnicity changes in the report…

The groups most likely to change were people who were children and/or living in the West in 2000. That region also had a higher rate of interracial marriage, and multiple race reporting, the report said. The census defines the West as being Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The most stable groups were single-race, non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians, with those who checked those boxes staying with them in both censuses. People were also consistent with their Hispanic/non-Hispanic choices.

Those who make strong predictions about the demography of the United States in the coming decades have to contend with changes like this. It isn’t as easy as suggesting that the proportion of whites will continue to decline. What if more Hispanics see themselves as white? White as a category changed quite a bit in the past to include new immigrant groups and will likely continue to change in the future. All of this introduces uncertainty in thinking about how this could play out with contemporary debates, like with immigration.

It would also be interesting to compare the responses provided to the Census versus an everyday understanding of one’s racial and/or ethnic identity. The Census categories have their own history and may not always match lived realities.

Argument: Census Bureau could better count Hispanics by focusing on origins

As I wrote about a month ago, the Census Bureau is looking into ways to better count Hispanics in the 2020 Census. Here are a few more details:

“Many Hispanics, especially those who are immigrants, are unsure about how to respond to census questions about race because the concept of race that we use in the U.S. is not so firmly entrenched in Latin American cultures,” said Shannon Monnat, a UNLV assistant professor of sociology who studies demography…

In April the Pew Research Center published a report from a survey that verified cramming everyone together into one category was problematic.

More than half of the Pew survey respondents said they preferred to use their country of origin as an identifier, 24 percent said they would use “Hispanic” most often and 21 percent labeled themselves “American.”…

“Historically, the standard sociological practice has been to apply ‘race’ to distinctions based on physical appearance and apply ‘ethnicity’ to distinctions based on culture and language, but ethnicity now is used increasingly as an inclusive term to categorize all groups considered to share a common descent,” Monnat said. “Demographers have been predicting a much wider range of responses on census forms and increased blurring of racial categories as minority populations continue to grow and interracial marriage increases over the next several decades. The children produced from these unions will not fit neatly into any of the standard census categories.

“A more realistic approach may be to use the concept of ‘origins’ rather than the traditional concepts of race and ethnicity,” she said.

Keeping up with changing definitions is a difficult task for sociologists and demographers. And this seems like a two-step process: first, we need to know how people understand or identify themselves and then we need to get the survey questions right.

Moving toward “origins” data would be interesting. The Census has some data on this – I think this is from questions about ancestry on the long form. Here is a two paragraph description of how this was done in 2000:

Ancestry refers to a person’s ethnic origin or descent, “roots,” or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. Some ethnic identities, such as “German” or “Jamaican,” can be traced to geographic areas outside the United States, while other ethnicities such as “Pennsylvania Dutch” or “Cajun” evolved in the United States.

The intent of the ancestry question is not to measure the degree of attachment the respondent had to a particular ethnicity. For example, a response of “Irish” might reflect total involvement in an “Irish” community or only a memory of ancestors several generations removed from the individual. A person’s ancestry is not necessarily the same as his or her place of birth; i.e., not all people of German ancestry were born in Germany (in fact, most were not).

Ancestry has its own issues.

US “White alone” population grows as more Hispanics label themselves as white

The Census Bureau has changed their racial categories over the years. The change made in the 2000 Census regarding Hispanics now leads to an interesting finding: more Hispanics are labeling themselves “white alone.”

The shift is due to recent census changes that emphasize “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not a race. While the U.S. government first made this distinction in 1980, many Latinos continued to use the “some other race” box to establish a Hispanic identity. In a switch, the 2010 census forms specifically instructed Latinos that Hispanic origins are not races and to select a recognized category such as white or black.

The result: a 6 percent increase in white Americans as tallied by the census, even though there was little change among non-Hispanic whites. In all, the number of people in the “white alone” category jumped by 12.1 million over the last decade to 223.6 million. Based on that definition, whites now represent 72 percent of the U.S. population and account for nearly half of the total population increase since 2000…

Some demographers say the broadened white category in 2010 could lead to a notable semantic if not cultural shift in defining race and ethnicity. Due to the impact of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group, the Census Bureau has previously estimated that whites will become the minority in the U.S. by midcentury. That is based on a definition of whites as non-Hispanic, who are now at 196.8 million…

“What’s white in America in 1910, 2010 or even 2011 simply isn’t the same,” said Robert Lang, sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, citing the many different groups of European immigrants in the early 20th century who later became known collectively as white. He notes today that could mean a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant in upstate New York or Jews and Italians in the lowest East side of Manhattan.

Fascinating – we have heard for some time now that within four or so decades, the percentage of whites within the United States would drop under 50%. But if more people see themselves as white, then it might be some time before this comes to pass.

I would be very interested to see who exactly has changed their self-identification from Hispanic to white. (We could also raise the question of whether those who categorize themselves as white are treated as white by others.) The article suggests it is second or third generation Hispanics and this would fit common sociological models: it is about at that point when immigrants assimilate more with the dominant group. If this is the case, does this suggest some widening gaps between Hispanics who have been in the United States longer versus those who are more recent immigrants?

What does this mean for debates about immigration? Implicit in some of these debates is the idea that Hispanic immigrants are not assimilating enough, hence a call for “English first” and limiting immigration. But if Hispanics are following a fairly typical American model where it takes a bit of time for new immigrants to become accepted as and/or see themselves as white, then more people can rest assured.

Incorporating Hispanic businessowners into civic and business groups

Many communities have civic and business groups comprised of local businessmen. In Iowa and in other places in the United States, it has been a challenge to incorporate Hispanic business owners into these organizations:

Main Street Iowa, like other programs nationwide, has been working to overcome barriers, many of them cultural, that keep Hispanic-owned businesses from joining the historic preservation group.

Specialists such as Thom Guzman and Norma Ramirez de Miess said the effort is crucial to revitalizing Iowa main streets and downtowns, because Hispanics are rapidly becoming a fixture in Iowa’s business landscape. Hispanics are the state’s fastest-growing business owners and have the fastest-growing population…

Terry Besser, a sociologist with Iowa State University, said Main Street programs — as well as chambers and other merchant or business groups — have their work cut out for them. Her research shows that Hispanic owners often distrust outsiders and government.

A study of 18 rural communities in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska showed that 24 percent of Hispanic-owned companies were business association members, vs. nearly 70 percent of businesses owned by white men.

The main suggestion in the article is that community leaders need to build personal ties with Hispanic businessowners before they can address commerce issues. How many communities do a good job at such outreach? This is an issue of social networking: white businessowners are plugged into these community organizations which can then lead to other opportunities.

This is a growing concern in communities where shopping areas, whether they be historic downtowns or strip malls or shopping centers, may be split between businessowners of different backgrounds. Working on projects, like building preservation or facade improvement, may prove to be more difficult. Local business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, usually aim to work on improving business opportunities for the whole community but this could be problematic in terms of lobbying or getting things done if large portions of the business community are not on board.

Yet I wonder if the aims of Hispanic business owners and these groups are the same and if it is really a problem if they are not.

Daily Herald highlights “immigrants moving to suburbs”

Focusing primarily on population growth in Aurora (read here about how Aurora is now the second largest city in Illinois), the Daily Herald says more immigrants are moving to the suburbs:

The trend of immigrants heading directly to American suburbs instead of starting in a major city intensified from 2000 to 2010 — and was one factor in Illinois’ 32.5 percent increase in Hispanic population in that period, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

Demographers say they aren’t just seeing it around Chicago. The same thing is happening around other major cities that have long been entry points for immigrants, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For many Hispanics in northern Illinois, Aurora supplanted Chicago as a cultural hub, and the growth has transformed smaller and smaller towns.

As I’ve noted before (see here as an example), this is quite a change for many American suburbs. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how the residents already living in these suburbs respond. Additionally, community leaders will have to respond as well. Based on some of the comments regarding this news story, it appears that there might be some people who are unhappy with these changes.

Chicago named 3rd most segregated city in the country

A piece in the Chicago Reader discusses the results of a new University of Michigan study that showed Chicago is the third most segregated city in the country, trailing only New York City and Milwaukee. A few notes about this study:

1. Like many other studies of its ilk, this is based on dissimiliarity index scores. Here is how this is calculated:

The dissimilarity index is a system used by sociologists to measure segregation, with the highest score – meaning total segregation – being 100. The lowest – complete integration – is 0. The numbers reflect the percentage of people from one race (black and white are measured here) that would have to move in order to create complete integration.

There are some other measures like this with different calculations but the dissimilarity index seems to be used most often. There are a number of easily-found sites online that provide instructions on how to calculate the dissimilarity index (here is eHow’s explanation).

2. The Chicago Reader article and another piece at Salon (with some nice maps and explanations for each city) focus on white-black segregation. The original study also calculated the dissimilarity index for other pairs of races, such as whites and Latinos. These figures are generally lower than those for whites and blacks as the Great Migration of blacks from the south prompted increasing levels of segregation in Midwest and Northeastern cities during the early decades of the 1900s.

In terms of the white-Hispanic findings from the original study, the top 5 segregated cities are Springfield, MA, Los Angeles, New York, Providence, and Boston. On this list, Chicago is tenth.

The original study also look at white-Asian segregation: the top 5 cities here were Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New York, Syracuse, and Baton Rouge.

3. A little more on interpreting the figures regarding Chicago:

-Along with the other 52 most white-black segregated cities, Chicago had a drop (4.8) in its dissimilarity index between 2000 and 2010.  The 53rd city, Greensboro, NC, was the first on the list to have an increase (0.9).

-In the Salon piece, there is a little bit of history about how this segregation came to be in Chicago and black migration, public housing, interstates, and Mayor Daley are mentioned. The conclusion is this:

Oak Park was one of a handful of places around the country where progressive whites made common cause with blacks. But in the Chicago area, it’s the exception, not the rule. Today, middle-income blacks are increasingly moving into Chicago’s suburbs. And though Quillian says that there isn’t white flight like there was in the past, many communities appear to be resegregating. The problem now is white avoidance.

It would be interesting to hear more about this idea of “white avoidance.”

-The Chicago Reader piece also suggests that Pekin, Illinois (a town whose high school has had some issues regarding race and its mascot – link from Wikipedia) is the most segregated city (white-black) in Illinois. However, the story doesn’t add the caution regarding Pekin: there are 857 blacks in the community. The CensusScope page of Illinois cities by dissimilarity index adds this disclaimer:

When a group’s population is small, its dissimilarity index may be high even if the group’s members are evenly distributed throughout the area. Thus, when a group’s population is less than 1,000, exercise caution in interpreting its dissimilarity indices.

It would be helpful if this were added to the story regarding Pekin.

How to discover hidden racial profiling in McHenry County police data

McHenry County is located northwest of Chicago, has just over 300,000 residents, and is part of the six-county Chicago region. In recent years, the county has had a growing Hispanic population (2009 Census figures estimate Hispanics make up about 11% of the population) and there was data to suggest that Hispanics might have been racially profiled by local police. Here is how the Chicago Tribune describes the data between 2004 and 2009:

Racial profiling is difficult to prove. That’s why researchers push for data collection, to flag potential problems. In 2004, the first year data were collected, McHenry County’s indicators were high.

Statewide, minorities were 15 percent more likely to be stopped than what would have been expected based on their respective populations.

McHenry County’s disparity rate, however, was 65 percent, more than double that of the Chicago area’s five other sheriff’s departments.

The county’s rate, however, began dropping dramatically in 2007, and by 2009 was average for area sheriff’s departments.

On the surface, this data suggests the problem might have been solved: police were made aware of the issue and McHenry County’s numbers were back in line with regional figures within a few years.

But the Chicago Tribune goes on to say that a statistical analysis suggests it isn’t that racial profiling actually decreased; rather, McHenry County police simply marked Hispanics as white in their reports:

By 2009, the statistical analysis showed, 1 in 3 Hispanics cited by deputies likely were mislabeled as white or not included in department data reported to the state.

•If mislabeling and underreporting are taken into account, the department’s official rate of minority stops would have towered over its Chicago-area peers rather than appearing average.

•Department brass repeatedly missed warning signs of potential problems, even after a deputy complained that some peers targeted Hispanics.

So how exactly did the Chicago Tribune do this analysis: how does one look between the lines of arrest data to make a claim about current racial profiling? As a sidebar in the print edition and an extra link to click on online, the Tribune describes how they did their analysis:

Drivers’ names from the court and department data were compared with names in the census database to find each driver’s likelihood of Hispanic ethnicity. Mirroring methodology of similar research, drivers were deemed Hispanic only if their last names were 70 percent or more likely to be Hispanic.

The department data were used to analyze accuracy of labeling by deputies — comparing the rate of likely Hispanics with what each deputy logged. But the department database lacked records of all cited drivers, so the Tribune used the court data to determine the extent of mislabeling and incorrect logging departmentwide. The rate of likely Hispanics, as shown by the court data, was compared with the rate of Hispanics that the department told the state it cited.

In doing the departmentwide analysis, the Tribune counted only the labeling of likely Hispanics as white, because such mislabeling artificially improved the state’s rating of the department. Deputies at times also labeled likely Hispanics as other minorities, such as when a driver who looks like Sammy Sosa was labeled African-American. The analysis didn’t count that type of mislabeling because it didn’t affect the state’s rating.

Researchers say the census-based analysis is commonly used in studies but has limitations: It counts non-Hispanic women who marry Hispanics, and misses Hispanic women who marry non-Hispanics. It also misses Hispanics who have nontraditional surnames. With the limitations taken into account, it’s generally considered an undercount of Hispanics.

This is an interesting methodological process involving several moving parts. The analysis used and compared multiple sources of data. This triangulation method then doesn’t just rely the data that police report – such data can have issues as the TV show The Wire illustrated. Surnames from the records were compared to US Census records to determine the likelihood that the name is Hispanic. This isn’t going to catch all cases but the Tribune says other researchers claim this actually produces an undercount. If this is the case, perhaps McHenry County police are even further engaged in this practice. Also, what counts as a correct labeling or not is determined by the state.

A few lessons could be learned from this:

1. “Official data,” as self-reported police records here, are not necessarily trustworthy.

2. There are often multiple sources of data one can use to describe or evaluate a situation. Relying only on one source of data gives a part of the story – in this case, the one the police wanted to tell, which is interesting in itself – but having multiple sources can give a more complete picture.

3. If the Chicago Tribune analysis is correct, it is a reminder that “hiding” or “disguising” data can be difficult to do if people are interested or determined enough to look into what the data actually means.