striking modifications of the standard race and ethnicity questions. For example, tests could be conducted of asking people to write in their race(s) rather than check a box, of including Hispanic as a racial category and dropping a separate question on ethnicity, or of asking people to report not only their self-perception, but also their perception of how others would report them. Such tests, while not necessarily representing feasible options for the 2010 census, could shed considerable light on the meaning of race and ethnicity in the United States today, which would be useful for census planning and for public enlightenment.

Finding 8.1: People who marked more than one race category in the 2000 census (the first to allow this reporting option) accounted for over 2 percent of the total population and as much as 8 percent of children ages 0 to 4, suggesting that the multirace population will grow in numbers. Nearly one-third of multirace respondents were of Hispanic origin, as were 97 percent of people checking only “some other race.” Together, multirace and some other race Hispanic respondents accounted for about one-half of all Hispanics, indicating the ambiguities confronting measurement of race for the Hispanic group. Consistency of reporting of Hispanic origin (as measured by responses of E-sample households compared with matching P-sample households) was very high (98 percent); consistency of race reporting was also high for non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Asians, but quite low for multirace respondents, and only moderately high for other groups. Both missing data rates and distributions for ethnicity and race are sensitive to differences in question format, order, and wording.

Recommendation 8.1: The Census Bureau should support—both internally and externally, in cooperation with other statistical agencies—ongoing, intensive, and innovative research and testing on race and ethnicity reporting. Particular attention should be given to testing formats that increase consistency of reporting and to methods for establishing comparability between old and new definitions and measures.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement