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White American (often used interchangeably with "Caucasian American" and within the United Statesmarker simply "white") is an umbrella term officially employed by the United States Census Bureau, Office of Management and Budget and other U.S. government for the classification of United Statesmarker citizens or resident aliens "having origins in any of the original people of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa".

German Americans (16.5%), Irish Americans (11.9%), English Americans (9.0%), Italian Americans (5.8%), Polish Americans (3.3%), French Americans (3.1%), Scottish Americans (1.9%), Dutch Americans (1.6%), Norwegian Americans (1.5%), Swedish Americans (1.4%), Scotch-Irish Americans (1.2%), Russian Americans (1.0%), and Welsh Americans (0.7%) make up 58.9% of the "White" population. Included in the category are White Hispanics representing 9.62%, mainly Mexican Americans.

Whites constitute the majority of the US population with 75.05% of the population. Whites are regarded as the socially and demographically dominant racial group in the United States.

Historical and present definitions

Today, the term "white American" can encompass many different ethnic groups.Although the United States Census purports to reflect a social definition of race, the social dimensions of race are more complex than Census criteria. The term "White ethnic" is used to group White Americans that are not part of the "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" majority.

Current U.S. Census definition

The countries from which White Americans claim their ancestry.
The 2000 U.S. census states that racial categories "generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria." It defines "white people" as "people having origins in any of the original people of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. This also includes national and regional ancestries where these people contributed to the demographic make-up; Canadianmarker, Latin American, Oceanian, and African ancestries for instance. In U.S. census documents, the designation white overlaps, as do all other official racial categories, with the term Hispanic, which was introduced in the 1980 census as a category of ethnicity, separate and independent of race.

Hispanicity, which is independent of race, is the only ethnic category, as opposed to racial category, which is officially collated by the U.S. Census Bureau. The distinction made by government agencies for those within the population of any official race category, including "white American", is between those with Hispanic ethnic backgrounds and all others of non-Hispanic ethnic backgrounds. In the case of White Americans, these two groups are respectively termed "White Hispanics" and "non-Hispanic Whites"; the former having at least one ancestor from the people of Spainmarker or Spanish-speaking Latin America, and the latter consisting of an ethnically diverse collection of all others who are classified as white American who are of non-Hispanic ethnic backgrounds.

Many Americans who are treated as part of minority groups are included in the census category white. This is true for many Hispanic Americans, 47.9% of whom identified racially as white. The 2000 Census separated the question on Hispanics from the question on race, the latter being divided into the 5 categories of white, black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Asian American, plus "other", with the respondent having the ability to mark more than one category. It is also true for many Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans and North African Americans, as well as non-European Jewish Americans, since the 2000 Census conflates race and geographic/national origin: white is defined to include people with original origins in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, or Asia.

In cases where individuals do not self-identify, the U.S. census parameters for race give each national origin a racial value. Additionally, people who reported Muslim (or a sect of Islam such as Shi'ite or Sunni), Jewish, Zoroastrian, Mexicanmarker, or Caucasian as their "race" in the "Some other race" section, without noting a country of origin, are automatically tallied as white. The US Census considers the write-in response of "Caucasian" or "Aryan" to be a synonym for white in their ancestry code listing.

Social definition

According to race scholars such as Karen Brodkin, in the United States, essentially anyone of European descent is considered white and Jews are also considered white. However, while the census asserts that "race" and "ethnicity" are separate, some Hispanics of primarily European descent may not consider themselves white and may not be considered white by others, possibly because of the long-held stereotype of Hispanics being given a non-white racial value. Likewise, while people of Middle Eastern and North African descent are included in the white category in the census, studies have found that Arab American teenagers may sometimes construct identities that distinguish themselves from "white society."

Some American white people, mainly those of distant descent from multiple European countries, tend to see themselves as belonging to no ethnic group at all, but just "American."

The cultural boundaries separating white Americans from other racial or ethnic categories have changed significantly over the course of American history. Even among Europeans, those not considered white at some time in American history are the Ashkenazi Jews, Germans, Irish, Italians, Slavs, Greeks, and other European people. David R. Roediger argues that the construction of the white race in the United States was an effort to mentally distance slave owners from slaves. The process of officially being defined as white by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship.

Position within society

As whites are the dominant racial and cultural group; according to sociologist Steven Seidman writing about the most prominent perspective among researches, "White culture constitutes the general cultural mainstream, causing non-White culture to be seen as deviant, in either a positive or negative manner. Moreover, Whites tend to be disproportionately represented in powerful positions, controlling almost all political, economic and cultural institutions." Yet, according to Seidman, Whites are most commonly unaware of their "privilege" and the manner in which their culture has always been dominant in the US, as they do not identify as members of a specific racial group but rather incorrectly perceive their views and culture as "raceless," when in fact it is ethno-national (ethnic / cultural) specific with a racial base component.

Demographic information

White Americans 1790–2000
Year Population % of the U.Smarker Year Population % of the U.Smarker
1790 3,172,006 80.7 1900 66,809,196 87.9
1800 4,306,446 81.1 1910 81,731,957 88.9
1810 5,862,073 81.0 1920 94,820,915 89.7
1820 7,866,797 81.6 1930 110,286,740 89.8 (highest)
1830 10,532,060 81.9 1940 118,214,870 89.8 (highest)
1840 14,189,705 83.2 1950 134,942,028 89.5
1850 19,553,068 84.3 1960 158,831,732 88.6
1860 26,922,537 85.6 1970 177,748,975 87.5
1870 33,589,377 87.1 1980 188,371,622 83.1
1880 43,402,970 86.5 1990 199,686,070 80.3
1890 55,101,258 87.5 2000 211,460,626 75.1 (lowest)

White Americans are the largest racial group counted in the 2000 Census, comprising 75.1% of the population. This number is sometimes recorded as 77.1% when it includes about 2% of the population who self-identified as "white" in combination with one or more other races; about 6% also identified ethnically as Hispanic. The largest ethnic groups (by descent) among white Americans were Germans, followed by the Irish and the English.

While over ten million white people can trace part of their ancestry back to the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 (this common statistic overlooks the Jamestown, Virginia foundations of America and roots of even earlier colonist-descended Americans), over 50 million whites have at least one ancestor who passed through the Ellis Islandmarker immigration station, which processed arriving immigrants from 1892 until 1954. See also: European Americans.

In 2005, Whites made up 76% of the American population.White Americans (non-Hispanic Whites together with White Hispanics) are projected to remain the majority, though with their percentage decreasing to 73% of the total population by 2050.

Geographic distribution

White Americans as percent of population, Census 2000.
(Around 8% of white Americans also identify as Hispanic.)
According to the Census definition, white Americans are the majority racial group in almost all of the United States. They are not the majority in Hawaiimarker, many American Indian reservations, parts of the South known as the Black Belt, and in many urban areas throughout the country.

Overall the highest concentration of those referred to as white alone by the Census Bureau was found in the Midwest, New Englandmarker, the Rocky Mountain states, Kentuckymarker, and West Virginiamarker. The lowest concentration of whites was found in southern and mid-Atlantic states.

Although all large geographical areas are dominated by white Americans, much larger differences can be seen between specific parts of large cities.

States with highest percentage of American whites, as of 2007:

Income and educational attainment

White Americans have the second highest median household income and personal income levels in the nation. The median income per household member was also the highest, since white Americans had the smallest households of any racial demographic in the nation. In 2006, the median individual income of a white American age 25 or older was $33,030, with those who were full-time employed between ages 25 and 64 earning $34,432. Since 42% of all households had two income earners, the median household income was considerably higher than the median personal income, which was $48,554 in 2005. Among whites, Jewish Americans rank first in household income, personal income and educational attainment among white Americans . In 2005, white households had a median household income of $48,977, 10.3% above the national median of $44,389. Among Cuban Americans with 86% classifying as white, only those persons born in the US, have a higher median income and educational attainment level than most other whites.

Poverty rates for white Americans are the second-lowest of any racial group, with 10.8% of white individuals living below the poverty line (3% below the national average). However, due to whites' majority status, 48% of Americans living in poverty are white.

Whites' educational attainment are the second-highest in the country, after Asian Americans'. Overall, nearly one-third of white Americans had a Bachelor degree, with the educational attainment for whites being higher for those born outside the United States. Nearly forty percent, 37.6%, of foreign born and 29.7% of native born whites had a college degree. Both figures are above the national average of 27.2%.

Gender income inequality was the greatest among whites with white men outearning white women by 48%. Census Bureau data for 2005 reveals that the median income of white females was lower than that of males of all races. In 2005, the median income for white females was only slightly higher than that of African American females, indicating that income inequities seem to run along gender lines more so than along racial lines.

Ethnic white neighborhoods

Many later European and Middle-Eastern immigrants, upon their arrival in the United States, felt isolated from the mainstream, English speaking, Protestant American society due to language, religious, and cultural barriers. They overcame this disadvantage by quickly creating closely-knit neighborhoods of members of their own ethnic groups. Such neighborhoods often grew into large, self-contained districts with their own churches and shops bearing signs in their own native languages; the most notable of these ethnic districts were New York's Little Italy, Hamtramckmarker in Michigan, the Irish Channelmarker in New Orleans, Little Canada, Minnesotamarker in the Minneapolis-St. Paulmarker area. Various religious sects have developed insular communities, including the modern day Amish communities in Pennsylvaniamarker, as well as the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklynmarker's Borough Parkmarker, and Mormons in the entire state of Utahmarker and cities such as Mesa, Arizonamarker and Pocatello, Idahomarker.


According to a recent study, about 30% of all White Americans, approximately 66 million people, have between 2 and 20% of African admixture with an exact median of 2.3%, which means the African median admixture percentage for all White population of the United State is 0.69%. Some whites have varying amounts of Native American ancestry; this admixture is claimed by white celebrities such as Chuck Norris, Cher, Megan Fox, Johnny Depp and Jessica Biel. Elvis Presley had partial Cherokee Indian ancestry. There are also some white people who are or were descendants of Pocahontas, including First Ladies Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan, astronomer Percival Lowell, as well as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, the wife of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom.

See also


  1. Lee, Sandra S. Mountain, Joanna. Barbara, Koening A. The Meanings of Race in the New Genomics: Implications for Health Disparities Research. Yale University. 2001. Accessed October 26, 2006.
  2. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, uses "white" rather than "white American."
  3. Definition of a White person in US and UK
  4. Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, 2008
  6. Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race from U.S. Census Bureau, 14 March 2001. Retrieved 15 October 2006.
  7. The White Population: 2000, Census 2000 Brief C2KBR/01-4, U.S. Census Bureau, August 2001.
  8. Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin 2000 U.S. Census Bureau
  9. Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results. Race and Nationality Descriptions from the 2000 US Census and Bureau of Vital Statistics. 2007. May 21, 2007.
  10. University of Michigan. Census 1990: Ancestry Codes. August 27, 2007
  11. Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America (New Brunswick NJ, 1998).
  12. Table of Contents and Excerpt, Mindiola, Niemann, and Rodriguez, Black-Brown Relations and Stereotypes
  13. - Science, Scientists and the Nature of Knowledge
  14. Online NewsHour: Completing the Count - March 23, 2000
  15. Caliber - Sociological Perspectives - 47(4):371 - Abstract
  16. John Tehranian, "Performing Whiteness: Naturalization Litigation and the Construction of Racial Identity in America," The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 109, No. 4. (Jan., 2000), pp. 825–827.
  17. Roediger, Wages of Whiteness, 186; Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York, 1998).
  18. Sweet, Frank W. Legal History of the Color Line: The Notion of Invisible Blackness. Backintyme Publishers (2005), ISBN 0939479230.
  19. Seidman, S. (2004). Critical Race Theory. In Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today (pp. 231–243). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  20. Official census statistics of the United States race and Hispanic origin population
  21. Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data Geographic Area: United States
  23. United States -- States; and Puerto Rico: Percent of the Total Population Who Are White Alone 2007
  24. Pew Hispanic center
  25. Rural Poverty: Myths and Realities
  26. Our First Black President?, New York Times, retrieved on 2 April 2009
  27. Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States, Frank Sweet
  28. Ralph G. Martin, The Woman He Loved, pp. 9, 173

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