Choosing race: Multiracial ancestry and identification

Aaron Gullickson, Ann Morning

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Social scientists have become increasingly interested in the racial identification choices of multiracial individuals, partly as a result of the federal government's new "check all that apply" method of racial identification. However, the majority of work to date has narrowly defined the population of multiracial individuals as the "biracial" children of single-race parents. In this article, we use the open-ended ancestry questions on the 1990 and 2000 5% samples of the US Census to identify a multiracial population that is potentially broader in its understanding of multiraciality. Relative to other studies, we find stronger historical continuity in the patterns of hypodescent and hyperdescent for part-black and part-American Indian ancestry individuals respectively, while we find that multiple-race identification is the modal category for those of part-Asian ancestry. We interpret this as evidence of a new, more flexible classification regime for groups rooted in more recent immigration. Our results suggest that future work on multiracial identification must pay closer attention to the varied histories of specific multiracial ancestry groups.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)498-512
    Number of pages15
    JournalSocial Science Research
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2011


    • Multiracial studies
    • Racial classification
    • Racial identification

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Sociology and Political Science


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