More than ten million Americans changed their race since 2000 on their census forms, and more people identified themselves as “American Indian” than can be accounted for by birth or immigration.
According to a new Pew report, research presented at the Population Association of America meeting last week found that out of 168 million Americans who turned in census forms, “more than 10 million of them checked different race or Hispanic-origin boxes in the 2010 census than they had in the 2000 count.”
“Do Americans change their race? Yes, millions do,” said study co-author Carolyn A. Liebler, a University of Minnesota sociologist who worked with the Census Bureau. “And this varies by group.”
According to the research, “relatively few people who called themselves non-Hispanic white, black or Asian in 2000 changed their category in 2010” while “Hispanics dominated the total change:”
The largest number of those who changed their race/ethnicity category were 2.5 million Americans who said they were Hispanic and “some other race” in 2000, but a decade later, told the census they were Hispanic and white, preliminary data showed. Another 1.3 million people made the switch in the other direction. Other large groups of category-changers were more than a million Americans who switched from non-Hispanic white to Hispanic white, or the other way around.
Hispanics account for most of the growing number and share of Americans who check “some other race” on the census form. Many do not identify with a specific racial group or think of Hispanic as a race, even though it is an ethnicity in the federal statistical system. Census officials added new instructions on the 2010 census form stating that Hispanic ethnicity is not a race in an attempt to persuade people to choose a specific group. (That change, as well as other wording edits in the instructions to respondents between 2000 and 2010 may be one reason some people switched. The order of the questions and the offered categories did not change.)
Also of note, according to the research, was the “remarkable turnover” from 2000 to 2010 “among those describing themselves as American Indian. Ever since 1960, the number of American Indians has risen more rapidly than could be accounted for by births or immigration.”
Researchers are not sure why Americans change their race, but demographer Sharon Lee said they may find an ancestor of a different race or “they may decide there are benefits (such as priority in college admissions) to including themselves in a certain group.”
During her 2012 campaign for U.S. Senate, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who ended up winning her race, was put under fire when information surfaced that she had identified as “Native American” for 25 years while she was a law school professor. Breitbart News’s Michael Patrick Leahy exhaustively documented “the facts surrounding Senator Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry and demonstrated that no credible evidence exists to support those claims.”
Warren has insisted that she is part Native American because of the stories her parents supposedly told her – even though they never provided her with documentation.