The Fluidity of Race: “Passing” in the United States, 1880-1940

Posted in Census/Demographics, Economics, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Passing, United States on 2015-01-20 20:05Z by Steven

The Fluidity of Race: “Passing” in the United States, 1880-1940

The National Bureau of Economic Research
NBER Working Paper No. 20828
January 2015
76 pages
DOI: 10.3386/w20828

Emily Nix
Department of Economics
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Nancy Qian, Associate Professor of Economics
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

This paper quantifies the extent to which individuals experience changes in reported racial identity in the historical U.S. context. Using the full population of historical Censuses for 1880-1940, we document that over 19% of black males “passed” for white at some point during their lifetime, around 10% of whom later “reverse-passed” to being black; passing was accompanied by geographic relocation to communities with a higher percentage of whites and occurred the most in Northern states. The evidence suggests that passing was positively associated with better political-economic and social opportunities for whites relative to blacks. As such, endogenous race is likely to be a quantitatively important phenomenon.

Read or purchase the paper here.

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Beyond Zebra – presented at National Association of Social Workers 2014 National Conference

Posted in Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, Social Work on 2015-01-19 01:16Z by Steven

Beyond Zebra – presented at National Association of Social Workers 2014 National Conference


Carlos Hoyt

Read the presentation transcript here.

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Sense About Genetic Ancestry Testing

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2015-01-05 02:10Z by Steven

Sense About Genetic Ancestry Testing

Sense About Science: Science and Evidence in the Hands of the Public
London, United Kingdom
3 pages

Tabitha Innocent

Many companies now offer to tell you about your ancestors from a DNA test. Adverts for these tests can give the impression that your results are unique and that the tests will tell you about your specific personal history, but the very same history that you receive could equally be given to thousands of other people. Conversely, the results from your DNA tests could be matched with all sorts of different stories to the one you are given: you cannot look at DNA and read it like a book or a map of a journey. This guide will help explain why, and what it is exactly that genetic ancestry companies are offering.

There are now many companies which offer to tell you about your ancestors from a DNA test. You send off a sample of your DNA and £100–£200 ($150–300), and in return you receive a report. The results of these tests may find a connection with a well-known historical figure. They might tell you whether you are descended from groups such as Vikings or Zulus, where your ancient relatives came from or when they migrated.

Adverts for these tests give the impression that your results are unique and that the tests will tell you about your specific personal history. But the very same history that you receive could equally be given to thousands of other people. Conversely, the results from your DNA tests could be matched with all sorts of different stories to the one you are given.

It is well known that horoscopes use vague statements which recipients think are more tailored than they really are (referred to as the ‘Forer effect’). Genetic ancestry tests do a similar thing, and many exaggerate far beyond the available evidence about human origins. You cannot look at DNA and read it like a book or a map of a journey. For the most part these tests cannot tell you the things they claim to – they are little more than genetic astrology…

Read the entire paper here.

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Racial Passing and the Raj

Posted in Asian Diaspora, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Passing on 2015-01-02 03:10Z by Steven

Racial Passing and the Raj

American Historical Association
129th Annual Meeting
New York, New York
2015-01-02 through 2015-01-05

Saturday, 2015-01-03, 15:10 EST (Local Time)
Park Suite 3 (Sheraton New York)

Uther Charlton-Stevens
Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russia

Racial passing is a subject that has attracted much attention in the historiography of the Americas, as well as other settings such as South Africa. It has hitherto been overlooked in the South Asian context. Mixed race groups in South Asia have until recently also been largely neglected by historians, while attracting more attention from geographers and anthropologists.

Mixed race groups such as Anglo-Indians have been perceived as marginal, despite existing on the fault line of constructed racial difference. In many ways they embody the colonial connection and the transnational most tangibly, and through their mere presence make problematic the binary of ruler and ruled, colonizer and colonized. The British perceived not only those of mixed race but also poor whites of Indian domicile as undermining their racial prestige in the eyes of their Indian subjects, treating the two groups as essentially one class. However the socio-racial and class-based hierarchies which the British sought to erect and to police motivated widespread attempts at transgression, resulting in widespread passing in hopes of upward mobility along the spectrum from Indian Christians to mixed-race Anglo-Indians to supposedly unmixed Domiciled Europeans and even into the ranks of the British population, such as those who came out to take senior positions on the railways. This world of racial mixing and transgression was one which the British found unsettling and which later Indian Hindu nationalists, concerned with concepts of purity, also had reasons to overlook. Exploring racial passing across the boundaries erected by the Raj should yield us far greater insight into the nature of race in late colonial India and the lasting impact of the imperial presence.

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Identity Politics in the 21st Century: The Racial Labeling Decisions of Multiracial Americans

Posted in Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-01 21:03Z by Steven

Identity Politics in the 21st Century: The Racial Labeling Decisions of Multiracial Americans

Center for the Study of American Politics
Yale University
57 pages

Lauren Davenport, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Racial attachments are understood to be socially constructed, endogenous to traits including gender, socioeconomic status, and religion. Yet we know surprisingly little about how such traits shape the racial labels chosen by people of interracial parentage, a group that has multiple racial identification options. Examining national surveys of over 37,000 respondents of Latino-White, Asian-White, and Black-White parentage, this paper disentangles how prominent social identities help determine the racial labels that the children of interracial unions self-select. Findings show that across interracial subgroups and net of all other influences, higher incomes and Jewish identity are highly predictive of a whiter self-identification, while worshiping a religion more commonly associated with racial minorities is predictive of a darker identification. However, gender is the single biggest predictor of racial identification, with women markedly more likely to identify as multiracial than comparable men. Taken together, these findings help us better understand the contextual nature of race and reinforce the importance of assessing how social identities help construct racial meanings in contemporary U.S. politics and society.

“It is official: Barack Obama is the nation’s first black president.”

So declared The New York Times, in response to President Obama’s checking of “Black” as his race on the 2010 Census (Roberts and Baker 2 April 2010). The race that Obama marked was befitting of The Times’ dramatic announcement, because it was one that no president had ever marked before. But the act was more than just the filling of a box: it was also a conscious decision to identify with a particular group. Given Obama’s White-Black parentage, he could theoretically identify as Black only, White only, both White and Black, or “Some Other Race.” In light of these choices, Obama’s decision to officially classify himself as singularly Black was viewed as definitive, settling the public debate over the significance of his biracial ancestry and where he fit within the racial divide.

Like President Obama, millions of Americans have multiple options when asked to racially identify themselves on government forms, surveys, and college applications. While their identification decisions typically do not make headlines, these individuals also engage in a complex identification construction process, one that in the aggregate has important implications for the future of race relations in the United States.

Social scientists have long known that race is endogenous to historical and social dynamics and can be redefined through political processes (Nobles 2000; Omi and Winant 1994; Brubaker 2009). The meanings we attach to race are shaped by its intersection with a host of other social identities. Notably, gender, socioeconomic status, and religion each impart a distinctly racial frame of reference on individuals, and can reinforce or weaken racial attachments (Shapiro 2004; Saperstein and Penner 2012; Chong 1998; Wilson 1980).

While there is a profound relationship between these social identities and the significance of racial identities, less is known about the effect of such social identities on the particular racial labels Americans self-select. Traditionally, racial labels were treated as an ascribed characteristic in U.S. politics, with group membership easily defined, devoid of choice, limited to the shared race of one’s parents or structured by legal and social norms such as hypodescent (Telles and Sue 2009; Williams 2006; (Snipp 2003).

But the changing of the U.S. Census in 2000 to permit multiple-race classification illustrates that racial labels are no longer a mutually exclusive construct in American politics and culture. This change is especially relevant for individuals of mixed-race parentage, who have a range of racial labels with which they may reasonably identify.

How do gender, socioeconomic status, and religion explain racial labeling outcomes? I investigate this question by examining the racial identification decisions among the growing number of Americans of mixed-race parentage. Assessing the choices made by this population|a group for whom identification is uniquely complex|helps us better understand how central, nonracial identities constrain and inform racial labels in contemporary U.S. society. Drawing upon literatures in sociology, political science, and social psychology, I argue that mixed-race individuals negotiate their race based on their interpersonal encounters, neighborhoods, and places of worship, classifying themselves in relation to their peers and adopting the label deemed most socially acceptable in their environment.

While a substantial literature has examined the labeling patterns of multiracial respondents, prior research has primarily emphasized the importance of family, peers, and environmental racial context and has given little attention to the roles that gender, social class, and religion play in shaping identification. The main reason for this neglect, I will argue, has been methodological, as most surveys of the mixed-race population have too-small multiracial samples or do not include important sociodemographic measures.

In order to disentangle the independent effects of social identities and other demographic factors on racial construction, I leverage national surveys of over 37,000 college students of interracial Asian-White, Latino-White, and Black-White parentage. With the inclusion of important variables lacking from other studies, the data-rich survey I examine extends recent literature on multiracialism in several notable ways. I thoroughly break down the impact of parents’ marital status, household income, and religion on respondent self-labeling, and to more fully comprehend how socioeconomic context shapes identification, I append census sociodemographic measures for median household income at the zip code level. The study’s very large multiracial sample also enables me to empirically assess the determinants of singular White identification, a racial label about which we currently understand relatively little, but that has major implications for the future American racial structure (Gans 2012; Cross 2002). More generally, I examine how young adults of mixed-race parentage are choosing to assert their identification in the 21st century, and the degree to which the legacy of hypodescent continues to in influence their identification choices.

Importantly, this research also contributes to our understanding of racial identification construction among mixed-race Latinos, a group that is typically excluded from multiracialism studies due to data constraints. Because most surveys employ a two-question approach wherein Hispanic origins are distinguished from race, it is often impossible to disentangle respondents of mixed Latino/non-Latino parentage from respondents who have two Latino parents and identify their ethnicity as Hispanic, but identify their race as either White, Black, Asian, or “Other.” Given that survey question format precludes scholars from making these distinctions, multiracialism scholars often (and understandably) refrain from analyzing Latinos in their studies. Yet the exclusion of Latinos in work on mixed-race identification remains a significant limitation, given the vast number of multiracial-Latino Americans; by far the most frequent interracial marriage pairings are between Whites and Latinos, and the rapid growth rate of the Latino population can be attributed in part to the rising number of children born to Latino-White couples (Wang 2012). Fortunately, because the surveys I assess have a combined race and Hispanic origin question, I am able to pinpoint individuals who are explicitly of Hispanic/non-Hispanic parentage, thus heeding Harris and Sim’s (2002) call for greater understanding of multiracial Latino identity.

By providing evidence from a large-scale sample of multiple-race respondents, this work helps clarify how racial labels are the product of gender identity, social class ties, and religious attachments. Results demonstrate how the relative flexibility or rigidity of racial boundaries are tied to cultural and psychological processes. To summarize my main findings, I show that, across respondents of Asian-White, Black-White, and Latino-White parentage, economic affluence and Jewish religious identity each are predictive of a singular White identification, whereas subscribing to other ethnic religions is predictive of a singular minority identification. But above all else, racial identification is deeply gendered: women are substantially more likely than comparable men to identify as multiracial. This gender gap is largest for individuals of Black-White parentage, suggesting that the social boundaries of racial labels are especially rigid for African American males. I explore and discuss reasons for these disparities in the paper’s conclusion.

Taken together, these results contribute a great deal to our understanding of how race is constructed in American society and politics, illustrating that racial labels are inextricably linked with social class, religion, and gender. This research emphasizes the importance of carefully disentangling the meanings attached to core social identities.

Read the entire paper here.

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America’s Churning Races: Race and Ethnic Response Changes between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census

Posted in Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2014-08-06 19:35Z by Steven

America’s Churning Races: Race and Ethnic Response Changes between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census

CARRA Working Paper Series
Working Paper #2014-09
Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications
United States Census Bureau
Washington, D.C.
56 pages

Carolyn A. Liebler
University of Minnesota

Sonya Rastogi
U. S. Census Bureau

Leticia E. Fernandez
U. S. Census Bureau

James M. Noon
U. S. Census Bureau

Sharon R. Ennis
U. S. Census Bureau

Race and ethnicity responses can change over time and across contexts – a component of population change not usually taken into account. To what extent do race and/or Hispanic origin responses change? Is change more common to/from some race/ethnic groups than others? Does the propensity to change responses vary by characteristics of the individual? To what extent do these changes affect researchers? We use internal Census Bureau data from the 2000 and 2010 censuses in which individuals’ responses have been linked across years. Approximately 9.8 million people (about 6 percent) in our large, non-representative linked data have a different race and/or Hispanic origin response in 2010 than they did in 2000. Several groups experienced considerable fluidity in racial identification: American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and multiple-race response groups, as well as Hispanics when reporting a race. In contrast, race and ethnic responses for single-race non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Asians were relatively consistent over the decade, as were ethnicity responses by Hispanics. People who change their race and/or Hispanic origin response(s) are doing so in a wide variety of ways, as anticipated by previous research. For example, people’s responses change from multiple races to a single race, from a single race to multiple races, from one single race to another, and some people add or drop a Hispanic response. The inflow of people to each race/Hispanic group is in many cases similar in size to the outflow from the same group, such that cross-sectional data would show a small net change. We find response changes across ages, sexes, regions, and response modes, with variation across groups. Researchers should consider the implications of changing race and Hispanic origin responses when conducting analyses and interpreting results.

Read the entire paper here.

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Seminar on Mixed Race in Fiji: The Part Indian Fijians

Posted in Media Archive, Oceania, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, Videos on 2014-04-06 16:48Z by Steven

Seminar on Mixed Race in Fiji: The Part Indian Fijians


Rolando Cocom
School of Social Science
The University of the South Pacific

This is a research design of an explorative study to be conducted in Fiji on ‘mixed race’ persons of iTaukei and Indo-Fijian parentage. The study seeks to render an interpretive understanding of ‘mixed race’ ethnic and national identification based on interviews with participants in Suva, Fiji. The research questions are (a) how do persons of mixed parentage (iTaukei and Indo-Fijian) identify themselves with an ethnic label or labels? (b) what are the perspectives on the institutionalization of the term “Fijian” as a national identity label? (c) what do such experiences tells us about the racialization and politicization of ethnicity? This study is interesting and significant in light of the increasing number of ‘multiracial’ movements in Anglo-America; the small number of inter-marriages between iTaukei and Indo-Fijian citizens; and the recent policy change to identify all Fijian citizens with the term Fijian. The presentation covers the central aspects of research designs: the literature review (on Anglo-America & Fiji), conceptual framework, methodology, and the modest implications of the study.

Read the presentation (in Microsoft Powerpoint) here.
Read the discussion paper (in PDF format) here.

NOTE: No part of this presentation is to be used, redistributed, or cited without the author’s consent. Contact:

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Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010

Posted in Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2014-03-31 13:08Z by Steven

Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010

United States Census Bureau
Population Division
Washington, D.C. 20233
Working Paper No.102
March 2014

Merarys Ríos

Fabián Romero

Roberto Ramírez

Since the release of the 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE) report in August 2012, much has been written about the AQE results (Compton et al., 2012; Hill and Bentley, 2013; Stokes et al., 2012). Several recommendations were made based on the AQE findings; one of which was to further test a combined race and Hispanic origin question. Recently, numerous articles and blogs supporting or arguing against the use of combined or separate race and ethnicity questions have made national headlines (El Nasser, 2013); particularly, about the Census Bureau’s recommendation to continue testing a combined question during the 2020 Census testing cycle (Compton et al., 2012). One concern, largely stemming from the Latino community, is the potential negative impact on race reporting among the Hispanic or Latino population (e.g., the undercounting of ‘Afro-Latinos’) if a new combined question is approved for the 2020 Census. In response to these concerns, the Census Bureau developed supplemental analysis from the AQE, specifically examining differences in race distributions by Hispanic origin when alternative questions were tested (Hill and Bentley, 2013). The results from this study are discussed later in this paper.

The Census Bureau is committed to improving the validity and reliability of census data, and over the last few decades, many census studies have examined race reporting among Hispanics (Stokes et al., 2012; Ennis et al., 2011; Martin, 2002; U.S. Census Bureau, 1996 and 1997). However, none examined race reporting among self-reported Hispanics in the decennial census. In this analysis, self-reported Hispanics are defined as those whose origin was not imputed.

Read the entire paper here.

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Mapping Interracial/Interethnic Married-Couple Households in the United States: 2010

Posted in Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Reports, United States on 2014-03-04 21:53Z by Steven

Mapping Interracial/Interethnic Married-Couple Households in the United States: 2010

United States Census Bureau
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America
New Orleans, Louisiana
2013-04-11 through 2013-04-13

Tallese D. Johnson, Population Division
U.S. Census Bureau

Rose M. Kreider, Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division
U.S. Census Bureau


This poster examines the geographic distribution of interracial and interethnic married couples in the United States. The analysis focuses on county level distributions that map the prevalence of specific combinations of interracial/interethnic married couples, such as Whites married to Asians. The county maps illustrate the diversity of interracial/interethnic couple combinations around the country. Much of the literature on interracial or interethnic married couples shows all such couples together. However, particular intermarried combinations have distinct histories and distributions across the United States.

Given distinct paths of entry into the United States, internal migration patterns, and residential segregation, we would expect that White/Black couples may tend to live in different areas than White/Asian couples, for example. Couples with a relatively longer history of intermarriage, such as Hispanic/non-Hispanic couples or White/American Indian and Alaska Native couples may have distinct patterns of residence. This poster provides basic information about where particular intermarried couples live, by county, across the United States…

View the poster and maps here.

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Scripts of Blackness and the Racial Dynamics of Nationalism in Puerto Rico

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-02 22:24Z by Steven

Scripts of Blackness and the Racial Dynamics of Nationalism in Puerto Rico

Papers of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
University of Puerto Rico, Cayey
Volume 6 (2009)
38 pages

Dr. Isar P. Godreau
Institute of Interdisciplinary Research
University of Puerto Rico, Cayey

National identity, no matter how differently defined, is often constructed through claims to heritage, “roots,” tradition, and descent. In the Western World, these claims, almost inevitably allude to questions of “race.” In Puerto Rico, it is the mixture of the Spanish, the Taíno Indian, and the African, which come to epitomize the racial/traditional substance out of which “the nation” is constructed, defended, and naturalized.

This mixture is often represented by images, statues, murals across the island that display the three racialized representatives, as the precursors of the modern, racially mixed Puerto Rican man or woman. (See Fig. 1).

The Taíno, Spaniard and African “roots” depicted in this national imagery, represent heritage symbols. They do not stand for contemporary ethnic constituencies, such as “Afro-Puerto Ricans”, “Indo-Puerto Ricans” or “Euro-Puerto Ricans.” Rather they are commonly understood as origin groups (roots) – that mixed during the period of Spanish colonization to conform “lo Puertorriqueño” in the present. As the mural says: “Tres Razas: Una Cultura.”

My book-project examines the different meanings Puerto Rican people—namely, intellectuals, politicians, government officials, and community residents—attribute to the black component of that mixture in their on-going process of constructing a Puerto Rican national identity.

Unlike the concept of mestizaje developed in many countries of mainland Latin America, blackness is not completely erased or excluded in discourses about the nation in Puerto Rico. Notions of race-mixture in Puerto Rico are more similar to those that developed in Brazil or Cuba where blackness is simultaneously excluded but also strategically included in the contemporary narrative of nation. Scholarship on race and racism in Afro-Latin America has made clear that the implicit goal of this narrative of mixture is whitening or blanqueamiento. Perhaps, the most obvious evidence of the prevalence of the ideology of blanqueamiento in Puerto Rico is the 2000 census, as only 8% of Puerto Ricans living in the Island declared themselves to be black, while an overwhelming majority of 80.5% identified themselves as white (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Elsewhere (Godreau 2008) I discuss how these results evidence popular understandings of whiteness as an inclusive, flexible, category that can encompass mixture and blackness as an undesirable category that is understood as extreme and pure, not mixed enough. In any case, the point is that—despite the rhetorical inclusion of an African influence in nationalist discourses—a growing body of Puerto Rican scholarship has documented how blackness is often socially marked as an inferior, ugly, dirty, unintelligent, backward identity–that is also reduced to a primitive hyper-sexuality (particularly in the case of black women), equated with disorder, superstition, servitude, danger, and heavily criminalized. Puerto Rican scholars have done important work on these different aspects and manifestations of racism and the exclusion of blackness from nationalist narratives – particularly in the late 1990’s and 2000. (c.f. Alegría and Ríos 2005; Cardona 1997; Díaz-Quiñonez 1985; Findlay 1999; Franco and Ortíz 2004; Giusti 1996; Godreau 2002a, 2002b, 2003; Guerra 1998; Rivera 2003; Rivero 2005; Santiago-Valles 1994, 1995; Santos-Febres 1993; Torres 1998; Zenón-Cruz 1975 among others)…

Read the entire paper here.

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