Multiracial Americans: The Lines Are Blurring

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In a new report, Social Technologies considers what the future might look like when 20% of the US population is multiracial.

According to a new report from the futurist research and consulting firm Social Technologies, the population of multiracial Americans may already be considerably larger than Census data suggests.

"Before the 2000 Census, population estimates based on ancestry put the number of multiracial Americans at 22 million--far more than the 7.27 million counted in the 2000 Census," explains Social Technologies' futurist Catherine Finn in the report."Part of the explanation is that since race is self-reported on Census forms, there is room for fluidity. How people define their family members' race can differ from what a strictly genetic analysis would conclude."

She notes a minor child's race is reported by their guardian or an adult in their household.

"These kinds of disparities may decline over time, especially as people's self-identification evolves and as multiracialism achieves broader social acceptance," she believes.

The multiracial population is growing

Despite the ambiguities in the official data, the number of multiracial Americans is almost certainly growing due to the fact that interracial marriages have been increasing for several decades--up from 300,000 in 1970 to 3.1 million in 2000. "Consider the implications of the rising number of interracial marriages," Finn points out in her report. "By 2003, nearly 13% of all US marriages were interracial, and as couples in interracial marriages have children, multiracial Americans are a growing segment of the U.S. population."

Attitudes toward Americans of multiracial descent are also changing, she says.

"According to a 2003 Gallup poll, 86% of African-Americans, 79% of Hispanics, and 66% of whites polled said they would accept their child or grandchild marrying someone of a different race," Finn explains. "Additionally, in a 2003 survey by Princeton University and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 77% of those polled said that it was acceptable for whites and African-Americans to date."

While people who are polled tend to provide the more socially acceptable answer, these surveys still indicate that Americans are more accepting of relations between people of different races than they were just a few decades ago: as late as 1990, polls indicated that 67% of whites would oppose a relative marrying an African-American and, at the government level, only in 1967 were the last "anti-miscegenation" laws (statutes prohibiting interracial marriage) overturned.

The Millennial generation--Americans born between 1979 and 1998--is more tolerant of interracial relationships than previous generations, surveys show. A 2005 Gallup poll revealed that an overwhelming 95% of young people aged 18 to 29 approved of interracial relationships.

While the majority of Americans seem to be more accepting of interracial relations than in the past, some minority groups don't like the term or classification of "multiracial" to describe an individual's race. "Minority leaders have expressed concern that if more minority Americans identify themselves as multiracial, their specific minority group will lose its culture and clout in society, and the race's ethnic integrity will be diluted," Finn notes.

The future of multiracial Americans

  • While the US Census doesn't necessarily project population growth for multiracial Americans, some experts have projected that this segment will grow to 189 million by 2100--encompassing a third of the US population that year. Others have projected that 20% of Americans will be multiracial by 2050.
  • While these high projections are provocative, it shows that many expect the multiracial population to grow exponentially. One reason is that as today's young multiracial Americans mature and start their own families, the number of multiracial Americans will increase because their children will by definition be multiracial.
  • At the same time, interracial marriage will continue to increase. This is because minority populations are growing in the US, and non-black, US-born minorities--especially Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans--have high interracial marriage rates compared to other racial groups. Nearly a quarter of married Hispanic Americans are in an interracial marriage, while 16% of married Asian-Americans are in an interracial marriage.
  • While many multiracial youths will embrace their multiracial identity, others may identify with one aspect of their racial heritage and reject others. Others will have to reconcile how other people view their racial identity with their own beliefs and experiences.
  • Other attitudes of this population will also continue to change--especially as the Millennial generation matures and moves into positions of influence. Also, as multiracial Americans become a larger and more visible segment of the US population, this may in itself lead to higher acceptance.

Learn more

For more information about multiracial Americans, contact the study's author, Catherine Finn, at catherine.finn@socialtechnologies.com.

Catherine Finn ) Futurist
Catherine Finn is a writer/ analyst in Social Technologies research department, contributing primarily to the Global Lifestyles and Technology Foresight multiclient projects. A 2006 graduate of The George Washington University, Catherine studied English and journalism and wrote for the arts section of The Daily Colonial, one of the university's newspapers. Her prior work experience includes serving as an editorial assistant at Preservation magazine, a research intern at Harvard Law School, and a publishing intern at Platypus Media.

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world's leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. For more visit http://www.socialtechnologies.com and the blog: http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com.

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