Census 2000: The Impact of "Self-identification" on the Representation of Racial and Ethnic Collectives.


Luana Espana

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In the mid 1990s, the revision of Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting, was a highly debated issue because the racial categories did not reflect the diversification of the nation through immigration and interracial marriage. The Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 established racial categories were White, Black, Asian or Pacific Islander and American Indian and the ethnic category was Hispanic. Multiracial advocates felt that a multiracial category should be added to the census to affirm multiracial identity and to address multiracial discrimination. Whereas, civil rights advocates feared that the addition of a multiracial category would reduce racial group membership and negatively impact the financing, monitoring and enforcement of civil rights laws. The Office of Management and Budget did not accept the multiracial category as a revision for Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, but decided to allow mixed race combinations on the Census 2000 and federal forms requiring race and ethnicity data. This study examines the implications of this change for racial collectives. The key finding is that the revision of the policy to allow for the choice of "mark one or more races" on the 2000 Census emphasizes individual identity, "how I define myself", rather than social identity, "how others define me", thus creating categorical tension and diminishing the intent of the broad socio-political categories to ameliorate structural discrimination.


R. Freer




Support provided by:Ford-Anderson Fellowship

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