Number of Multiracial Adults in the United States Continues to Rise

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“Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the US—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole,” Pew Research Center says.

A new Pew Research Center study shows the number of multiracial adults in the US is on the rise, but categorizing multiracial America is getting complicated.

Pew referred to the US Census Bureau, which found that 9 million Americans chose two or more racial categories when asked about their race in 2010, up from 6.8 million in 2000 when the Census Bureau first started allowing people to choose more than one racial category to describe themselves. Four multiple-race groups were, by far, the largest race combinations in 2010—White and Black, White and Some Other Race, White and Asian, and White and American Indian and Alaska Native.

In addition to the four largest race combinations, 9 additional multiple-race groups accounted for at least 100,000 people in 2010. Since 2000, two combination groups exhibited the most significant changes—the White and Black population, which grew by over 1 million people, and increased by 134%.  Also, the White and Asian population, which grew by about three-quarters of a million people and increased by 87%.

census

Pew researchers believed the census likely underestimated the multiracial segment of the adult population by failing to account for the racial backgrounds of respondents’ parents and grandparents. Taking into account those parameters, Pew carried out a nationally representative survey of over 1,500 multiracial Americans age 18 and above, from February 6 to April 6, 2015. The findings showed that 6.9% of the US adult population could be considered multiracial, rather than the census estimate of 2.9%.

This estimate comprises 1.4% in the survey who chose two or more races for themselves; an additional 2.9% who chose one race for themselves, but said that at least one of their parents was a different race or multiracial; and 2.6% who are counted as multiracial, because at least one of their grandparents was a different race than them or their parents.

adults

60% of multiracial adults polled by Pew said they were proud of their mixed racial background, though 61% of adults with said background didn’t consider themselves multiracial. About three-in-ten adults with a multiracial background said that they have changed the way they describe their race over the years: some said they once thought of themselves as only one race and now think of themselves as more than one race, while others said just the opposite.

babies

Pew’s survey findings suggest multiracial Americans are already growing at a rate three times as fast as the overall US population. The share of marriages between spouses of different races, has increased almost fourfold since 1980. The share of multiracial babies has risen from 1% in 1970 to 10% in 2013.

William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, whose 2014 book Diversity Explosion details how Hispanics, Asians and multiracial Americans are quickly transforming the US society, told The Wall Street Journal:

“…Multiracial populations will explode even faster than we might have thought. The definition of race and race-related identity in America going forward will be more fluid than we have ever experienced. The concept of race will be fuzzy and may eventually fade away, despite its importance today.”

The Multiracial Experience

Because of their racial background, the Pew survey found 55% multiracial adults experienced some type of racial discrimination, including racist slurs, jokes and physical threats. 24% felt annoyed because people made assumptions about their racial background, while only 4% said having a mixed racial background has been a disadvantage in their life.  19% said it has been an advantage, and 76% said it made no difference.


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