Race and ethnicity in the United States Census
defined by the United States
and the Federal Office of Management and
(OMB), are self-identification
data items in which
residents choose the race
or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate
whether or not they are of Hispanic or Latino origin
The racial categories represent a social-political construct
designed for the race or races that respondents consider themselves
to be and "generally reflect a social definition of race recognized
in this country." The OMB defines the concept of race as outlined
for the US Census as not "scientific or anthropological" and takes
into account "social and cultural characteristics as well as
ancestry" using "appropriate scientific methodologies" but not
"primarily biological or genetic in reference."
Race and ethnicity
separate and distinct identities, with Hispanic or Latino
asked as a separate question. Thus, in addition to their race or
races, all respondents are categorized by membership in one of two
ethnicities: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino." In
1997, OMB issued a Federal Register
Notice which provided revised racial and ethnic definitions.
Race was asked differently in the Census 2000
in several other ways
than previously. Most significantly, respondents were given the
option of selecting one or more race categories to indicate their
racial identities. Data show that nearly seven million Americans
identified themselves as members of two or more races. Because of
these changes, the Census 2000 data on race are not directly
comparable with data from the 1990 census
or earlier censuses.
Caution must be used when interpreting changes in the racial
composition of the US population over time.
Snapshot: Race in the US
|The 7th federal census, in 1850, asked for Color and gave the
|The 10th federal census, in 1880, asked for Color and gave the
|The 22nd federal census, in 2000, had a "short form" that
asked one ethnic and one race/ancestry question:
1. Is the person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?
2. What is the person's race?
- Black or African American
- American Indian or Alaska Native (write in tribe)
- Asian Indian
- Native Hawaiian
- Guamanian or Chamorro
- Other Pacific Islander (write in race)
- Other race (write in race)
This census acknowledged that "race categories include both racial
and national-origin groups."
The following definitions apply to the 2000 census only.
- "White. A person having origins
in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who designate
their race as 'White' or report entries such as Irish, German,
Australian, Italian, Near Easterner, Arab, Polish."
Because a good percentage of South Americans are direct descendants
of Europeans, many will indicate their race as "White".
- "Black or African American. A
person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa.
It includes people who indicate their race as 'Black, African Am.,
or Negro,' or provide written entries such as African American,
Afro American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Jamaican."
- "Asian. A person having origins
in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or
the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Bangladesh,
Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the
Philippine Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes
'Asian Indian,' 'Chinese,' 'Filipino,' 'Korean,' 'Japanese,'
'Vietnamese,' and 'Other Asian.'"
- 'Native Hawaiian and Other
Pacific Islander. A person having
origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or
other Pacific Islands. It includes
people who indicate their race as 'Native Hawaiian', 'Guamanian or
Chamorro', 'Samoan', and 'Other Pacific Islander'."
- "Some other race. Includes all other responses not included in
the 'White', 'Black or African American', 'American Indian and
Alaska Native', 'Asian' and 'Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific
Islander' race categories described above. Respondents providing
write-in entries such as multiracial, mixed, interracial, We-Sort, or a Hispanic/Latino group (for example,
Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Cuban) in the 'Some other race' category
are included here."
- "Two or more races. People
may have chosen to provide two or more races either by checking two
or more race response check boxes, by providing multiple write-in
responses, or by some combination of check boxes and write-in
government of the United States
has mandated that "in data
collection and presentation, federal agencies are required to use a
minimum of two ethnicities: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic
or Latino."" The Census Bureau defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a
person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American
or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race." For
discussion of the meaning and scope of the Hispanic or Latino
ethnicity, see the Hispanic and Latino Americans
and Racial and
ethnic demographics of the United States
Use of the word ethnicity
for Hispanicity only is
considerably more restricted than its conventional meaning, which
covers other distinctions, some of which are covered by the "race"
questions. The distinct questions accommodate the possibility of
Hispanic and Latino Americans' also declaring various racial
identities (see also White Hispanic and Latino
, and Black Hispanic and Latino
In the 2000 Census
of the US population reported Hispanic or Latino ethnicity and
87.5% reported non-Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.
Institutes of Health adopted the new language to comply with the
revisions to Directive 15, as did the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission of the United States
Department of Labor in 2007.
See Race and ethnicity
Relation between ethnicity and race in census results
The Census Bureau warns that data on race in Census 2000 are not
directly comparable to those collected in previous censuses. It has
also been noted that many US residents see race and ethnicity as
the same concept.
|% of Not
& Pacific Is.
The 2010 US Census
have changes designed to more clearly distinguish the Hispanic
ethnicity as not being a race. That may include adding the
sentence: "For this census, Hispanic origins are not races."
Additionally, the Hispanic terms will be reordered from "Hispanic
or Latino" to "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin".
In response to a very large percentage of Hispanics marking "Some
other race" (a non-standard category), the 2010 US Census is
considering removing the "Some other race" category.
- Final Revisions of the Employer Information Report
(EEO-1) by the EEOC. The page contains links to FAQs, forms and instructions
- American Anthropological Association. "A Brief History of the
OMB Directive 15." 1997. May
- Waite, Preston. US Census Bureau. " 2010
Decennial Census Program." 2006. accessed July 7, 2008.