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Multiracial residents are changing the face of the US

Tim Henderson, on

Published in News & Features

“I am a white woman who married a Black man and had a Black baby,” said Amanda Lewis, a sociologist who runs the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“That’s the way others see her. That’s the way we think of her,” Lewis said of her daughter. “The opposite doesn’t happen. Instead of trying to make white people more comfortable, we need to embrace the multiracial democracy we’ve become.”

In his book, Alba questions the idea of a “majority-minority” United States by 2045, as predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau. At that point, according to census officials, the non-Hispanic white population will fall below 50%.

That idea creates a misleading impression of a “stark and deep-seated cleavage between the currently dominant white majority and non-white minorities,” Alba writes, arguing that other races could be “absorbed into mainstream society” like earlier generations of European immigrants were.

Lewis and López argued for different statistics that would include both self-identified racial categories and a “street race” that reflects the way people are perceived by the outside world.


“Asking simply how people identify is not enough,” López said. “We need to measure how others see you, or we miss an opportunity to make inequity visible and rectify that inequity.”

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said more needs to be done to measure multiracial backgrounds, including better census questions that measure intermarriage between Hispanic and non-Hispanic people.

“I do like the idea of characterizing mixed-race individuals as just that, rather than in the process of assimilating,” Frey said. “This rise in the mixed population will continue and reflects an increasingly diverse 21st century America.”


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