In a working paper titled “America’s Changing Races: Race and Ethic Response Changes between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census,” the authors found that at 9.7 million Hispanics changed their racial and origin status….
The Census Bureau determined that between 2000 and 2010, 8.3 percent of Hispanics changed their “race and/or Hispanic origin response.” For blacks it was 5 percent and just 1 percent for whites.
Many census responders are staying Hispanic but changing their race.
The top three response changes from 2000 to 2010:
- Hispanic/Some Other Race change to Hispanic/White
- Hispanic/White change to Hispanic/Some Other Race
- White change to Hispanic White
The reasons for the changes are not clear, but modifications to the forms and the method of surveying may be factors.
Another possible reason?
Benefits are sometimes granted based on race and ethnicity, so perhaps that influences some changes. Set-aside government contracts go to minorities.
College admission preferences are given based on race and ethnicity. If I label myself Hispanic/White but later learn that Native Americans are considered the most valued Under Represented Minority (URM) by colleges, then I might change my identity to Hispanic/Native American. (Most Hispanics can claim some degree of Native American ancestry, but colleges commonly require tribal certification before giving special preference.)
At a conceptual level, our results highlight an oft-stated (but rarely incorporated) declaration – race and ethnicity are complex, multifaceted constructs. Taking this idea seriously puts the results of our research in a different light. If social science evidence is correct, people are constantly experiencing and negotiating their racial and ethnic identities in interactions with people and institutions, and in personal, local, national, and historical context. These racial and ethnic identities are not always able to be fully translated to a census questionnaire fixed-category format. Perhaps it is not surprising that people change responses and instead it is surprising that so many are consistent in their race and Hispanic origin reports to the Census Bureau.
Minority preferential treatment policies are becoming more complicated, and more difficult to implement.