American census

System article Type:English Date time:2010-07-01 00:00:00
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For years, Jorge Delpinal's job as assistant chief of the Census Bureau's
Population Division was to fit people into neat, distinct racial and ethnic
boxes: white, black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. As the son of an
Anglo mother and a Hispanic father, however, he knew all along that the task
was not always possible.
For the 2000 decennial census, that will no longer be the case. For the first
time, the census forms will allow people to check of as many races as apply.
As a result, the Census Bureau should obtain a better picture of the extent of
intermarriage in the United States. In the absence of such a direct method,
a few years ago veteran demographer Barry Edmonston used sophisticated
mathematical modeling techniques to calculate how intermarriage is changing the
face of the United States as part of an immigration study he directed for the
National Research Council of the American Academy of Sciences. His research was
summarized in a report entitled The New Americans: Economic, Demographic and
Fiscal Effects of Immigration. But as the Canadian-born, white husband of
sociologist Sharon Lee, a Chinese-American, Edmonston really needed no computer
to understand the transformation under way in this society. He and his family
are living, breathing participants. The face of America is changing - literally.
As President Clinton has said, within 30 or 40 years, when there will be
no single race in the majority in the United States. But afoot behind the scenes
is another trend that, if handled carefully, could bring the country closer
together rather than drive it apart. This quiet demographic counter-revolution
is a dramatic upsurge in intermarriage. Edmonston's study projected that by 2050,
21 percent of the U.S. population will be of mixed racial or ethnic ancestry, up
from an estimate of seven percent today. Among third-generation Hispanic and Asian
Americans, exogamy-marriage outside one's ethnic group or tribe-is at least
50 percent, he and others estimate. Exogamy remains much less prevalent among
African Americans, but it has increased enormously, from about 1.5 percent in
the 1960s to eight to 10 percent today. Such a profound demographic shift
could take place while no one was watching because, officially, no one was
watching. Federal agencies traditionally collected racial data using a formula'
one person, one race similar to the time-honored voting principle. Thus, the
Census Bureau could estimate that on census forms no more than two percent of
the population would claim to be multiracial. In the absence of a more
straightforward count, no one could know for sure what the demographics are.
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