Racial classifications in the US census: 1890–1990

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-08-29 22:56Z by Steven

Racial classifications in the US census: 1890–1990

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 16, Issue 1 (1993)
pages 75-94
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.1993.9993773

Sharon M. Lee, Adjunct Professor of Sociology
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

This article examines racial classifications on United States population census schedules between 1890 and 1990 to provide insights on the changing meanings of race in US society. The analysis uses a sociology of knowledge perspective which assumes that race is an ideological concept that can be interpreted most productively by relating its definition and measurement to the larger social and political context. Four themes are identified and discussed: (i) the historical and continuing importance of skin colour, usually dichotomized into white and non‐white, in defining race and counting racial groups; (ii) a belief in ‘pure’ races that is reflected in a preoccupation with categorizing people into a single or ‘pure’ race; (iii) the role of census categories in creating pan‐ethnic racial groups; and, (iv) the confusing of race and ethnicity in census racial classifications. Each theme demonstrates the potential or actual role of official statistics, exemplified by census racial data, in reflecting and guiding changes to the meaning and social perceptions of race. A detailed examination of racial classifications from the 1980 and 1990 Censuses shows that the influence of political interests on racial statistics is particularly important. The article concludes with a discussion of whether official statistical recorders such as population censuses should categorize and measure race, given the political motivations and non‐scientific character of the classifications used.

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Racial Categorization in the 2010 Census

Posted in Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Reports, United States on 2010-03-19 21:50Z by Steven

Racial Categorization in the 2010 Census

U.S. Commision on Civil Rights
Briefing Report
March 2009
59 pages

A Briefing Before The United States Commission on Civil Rights Held in Washington, DC on 2006-04-07.

On April 7, 2006, a panel of experts briefed members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on racial categorization in the 2010 Census. Charles Louis Kincannon, Director, U.S. Census Bureau; Sharon M. Lee, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Sociology, Portland State University; Kenneth Prewitt, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs, Columbia University; and Ward Connerly, Chairman, American Civil Rights Institute, made presentations and offered their expertise on 1) the current racial categories in the 2010 Census; 2) proposed alternative racial categories in the 2010 Census; 3) the proposed elimination of racial categories in the 2010 Census; and 4) the legal and policy implications of Office of Management and Budget guidance to federal agencies on allocation of multiple responses. The briefing was held in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

A transcript of this briefing is available on the Commission’s Web site (www.usccr.gov), and by request from the Publications Office, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 624 Ninth Street, NW, Room 600, Washington, DC, 20425; (202) 376-8128; publications@usccr.gov.

Read the entire report here.

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