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Friday, January 15, 2016

Majority Minority? Maybe Not...

At The American Prospect, Richard Alba writes that the notion of a "coalition of the ascendant" may rest on two false premises.
The first stems from the Census Bureau’s way of classifying people by ethnicity and race, which produces the smallest possible estimate of the size of the non-Hispanic white population. Whenever there is ambiguity about ethno-racial identity, the statistics publicized by the bureau count an individual as minority. This statistical choice is particularly important for population projections because of the growing number of children from mixed families, most of whom have one white parent and one from a minority group. In the Census Bureau’s projections, children with one Hispanic, Asian, or black parent are counted as minority (that is, as Hispanic or nonwhite). The United States has historically followed a “one-drop” rule in classifying people with any black ancestry as black. The census projections, in effect, extend the one-drop rule to the descendants of other mixed families. A great deal of evidence shows, however, that many children growing up today in mixed families are integrating into a still largely white mainstream society and likely to think of themselves as part of that mainstream, rather than as minorities excluded from it.
A second reason to be skeptical about the excited talk about the end of a white majority is that it ignores the potential for blurring the boundary between mainstream and minority. The United States has previously seen excluded minorities such as the Irish, Italians, and Jews assimilate into the mainstream. Although the channels of assimilation are narrower today because of heightened inequality, many recent immigrant families seem to be on the same path as their predecessors. The likely result will be to enlarge the mainstream and alter the circumstances under which individuals are seen as belonging to marginalized minorities.
Unlike census data, data from a 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center illuminate the feelings and experiences of individuals with mixed backgrounds. According to “Multiracial in America,” the Pew report based on the survey, most Americans from mixed backgrounds do not think of themselves as multiracial. For those who are white and Asian, the affinities with the white group are strong. By a two-to-one margin, they say that they have more in common with whites than with Asians. They report, in addition, feeling more accepted by whites and having more white than Asian friends. Those who are white and black exhibit a very different profile. The majority believe that others see them as black. They also have much closer ties to their black relatives and are very likely to report encountering discrimination, including being “unfairly stopped by the police.”
The Pew survey found many more multiracial Americans than the census does, which implies that adults with mixed backgrounds often appear in the census in single-group categories (that is, as unmixed white, black, and so on). In fact, an internal Census study, “America’s Churning Races,” shows that large numbers of people who identify themselves as multiracial in one census identify themselves as white in another.