U.S. Department of Commerce
Link to Census 2000 Gateway Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race

March 14, 2001



Question: Can data users compare data by race from Census 2000 with previous censuses?

Answer: Data on race from Census 2000 are not directly comparable with those from the 1990 census and previous censuses due, in large part, to giving respondents the option to report more than one race. Other factors, such as reversing the order of the questions on race and Hispanic origin and changing question wording and format, also may affect comparability.

Question: Why didn't the Census Bureau allow respondents to report more than one race in previous censuses?

Answer: The decision to use the instruction "mark one or more races" was reached by the Office of Management and Budget in 1997 after noting evidence of increasing numbers of children from interracial unions and the need to measure the increased diversity in the United States. Prior to this decision, most efforts to collect data on race (including those by the Census Bureau) asked people to report one race.

Question: What census data products will include data by race.

Answer: Data by race will appear in most Census 2000 data products. A large portion of Census 2000 data products will be made available on the Internet through the American FactFinder web page. Data on race also will be made available through paper reports and computer media such as CD-ROM and DVD. A description of our data products and a schedule for their release can be found on our web site at www.census.gov. Click on "Schedule", which will take you to the "Census 2000 Products at a Glance."

Question: How will data on race be presented?

Answer: Data on race will be shown using several different options. For example, in the Public Law 94-171 (redistricting) file, data will be shown for 63 racial categories. These include White alone, Black or African American alone, American Indian and Alaska Native alone, Asian alone, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, Some other race alone and 57 possible combinations of the above six categories.

In data products where it will not be possible to show 63 racial categories, such as the Demographic Profiles, data will be shown for seven mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories. The seven categories are White alone, Black or African American alone, American Indian and Alaska Native alone, Asian alone, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, Some other race alone, and Two or more races. The two or more races category represents all those respondents who reported more than one race.

A third option provides data about people who reported a race either alone or in combination with one or more other races. For example, the White alone or in combination category consists of those respondents who reported White, whether or not they reported any other races. In other words, people who reported only White or who reported combinations such as "White and Black or African American," or "White and Asian and American Indian and Alaska Native" are included in the White alone or in combination category. Using this option there are six alone or in combinations groups: White alone or in combination; Black or African American alone or in combination, American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination, Asian alone or in combination, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone or in combination, and Some other race alone or in combination. If the number of people in these six categories is calculated, it will equal the total number of responses and will generally exceed the total population.

Question: How were decisions made on which census data products would and would not contain data on race?

Answer: The decision on which products would include which tabulation option for race was determined through consultations with data users, especially our race and ethnic advisory committees. Ultimately, the decision was based on the Census Bureau's ability to provide data users with reliable and accurate data without violating respondents' confidentiality.

Question: Will the Census Bureau develop methods to facilitate comparisons between the race data in Census 2000 and previous censuses?

Answer: An OMB federal agency working group is studying possible bridging methods for comparing Census 2000 data on race with data from previous censuses. The Census Bureau did not develop these methods, but it is participating with the working group that is evaluating them. The Census Bureau is conducting evaluation studies to understand better the impact of changes to the question on race. For example, during the summer of 2001, the Census Bureau will implement a Census Quality Survey, gathering data from approximately 50,000 households, to assess the reporting of race and Hispanic origin in Census 2000. The purpose of this study is to produce a data file that will assist users in developing ways to make comparisons between Census 2000 data on race, where respondents were asked to report one or more races, and data on race from other sources that asked for only a single race.

Question: Does the Census Bureau have a policy on which tabulation options data users should use when comparing data on race from Census 2000 and previous censuses?

Answer: The Census Bureau is providing different tabulation options so that users may decide which option best satisfies their needs. In addition, the Census Bureau will provide a data file, using results from the Census Quality Survey to be conducted in the summer of 2001, that will assist users in developing ways to make comparisons between Census 2000 data on race, where respondents were asked to report one or more races, and data on race from other sources that asked for only a single race.

Question: What are the race groups that federal agencies are to use to comply with the Office of Management and Budget's guidance for civil rights monitoring and enforcement?

Answer: The categories (made available in OMB Bulletin No. 00-02, "Guidance on Aggregation and Allocation of Data on Race for Use in Civil Rights Monitoring and Enforcement") to be used are:

  1. American Indian and Alaska Native
  2. Asian
  3. Black or African American
  4. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  5. White
  6. American Indian and Alaska Native and White
  7. Asian and White
  8. Black or African American and White
  9. American Indian and Alaska Native and Black or African American
  10. >1 percent: Fill in if applicable with multiracial combinations greater than 1% of the population
  11. Balance of individuals reporting more than one race
  12. Total

 The use of these categories, including the identification of specific two or more race combinations greater than 1 percent, is mandatory for civil rights monitoring and enforcement agencies. For more information, see www.whitehouse.gov/omb/bulletins/b00-02.html

Question: If data users combined a single race group, such as White, with all of the possible combination groups that include White, such as "White and Black or African American," "White and American Indian and Alaska Native and Asian," will such entries equal the total race population for White for a given jurisdiction?

Answer: While this total provides the maximum number of people who identify with being White, regardless of what other races were reported, it cannot be used with other racial categories to add to the total population. This White total includes race combinations such as "White and Black or African American" that also would be included in the total of people who reported Black or African American regardless of other races reported.

By contrast, the "one-race" categories added to the "Two or more races" category equals the total population. See example below:

_____________________________________________________

                         Population Counts for City X
Total Population                              500,000
One Race - Total                              450,000
White                                         400,000
Black or African American                      10,000
American Indian and Alaska Native               5,000
Asian                                             500
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander        100
Some Other Race                                34,400

Two or more races - Total                      50,000
_____________________________________________________

Question: How does the Census Bureau define race and ethnicity?

Answer: Census Bureau complies with the Office of Management and Budget's standards for maintaining, collecting, and presenting data on race, which were revised in October 1997. They generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria.

In accordance with the Office of Management and Budget definition of ethnicity, the Census Bureau provides data for the basic categories in the OMB standards: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. In general, the Census Bureau defines ethnicity or origin as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person 's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any race.

According to the revised Office of Management and Budget standards noted above, race is considered a separate concept from Hispanic origin (ethnicity) and, wherever possible, separate questions should be asked on each concept.

Question: How did the Census Bureau handle multiple responses to the race question in the 1990 census?

Answer: The 1990 Census data capture system was not designed to capture multiple circles being filled by respondents. When individuals marked the Other race circle and provided a multiple write in, the response was assigned according to the first write in. For example, a write in of "Black-White" was assigned a code of Black, a write in of "White-Black" was assigned a code of White. Separate codes were assigned to the various combinations of write ins for research and evaluation purposes.

Information gathered prior to the 1990 census indicated that less than one half of one percent of the population would mark more than one circle.

Question: Will multiple responses be captured for the question on Hispanic origin?

Answer: The Census Bureau followed the recommendation of its Hispanic Advisory Committee and captured multiple responses to the question on Hispanic origin for research purposes. However, multiple responses ultimately were assigned a code of one category for the official Census 2000 data.

Question: Is the multiracial population in the U.S. growing? Do we know the size of this population?

Answer: This is the first census that collected and tabulated data on people reporting two or more races, so we do not have an exact measure of change in the multiracial population. However, Census Bureau research shows that the number of children living in mixed-race families has been increasing in the past two decades. In 1970, the number of children living in mixed-race families totaled 460,000. This number increased to 996,070 in 1980 and reached almost 2 million in 1990. In 1990, children in mixed-race households accounted for 4 percent of all children in households.

The Census Bureau's 1996 National Content Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 1995 Current Population Survey Supplement on Race and Ethnicity indicated that, nationwide, less then 2 percent of the population self-identified as multiracial.

Additional Information:

                Number of Children Living in Mixed-Race Families
                Year                                                   Number
                1970                                                   460,000
                1980                                                   996,070
                1990                                                1,937,496

Question: How will data for people reporting two or more races be tabulated beyond showing a total number of people reporting two or more races?

Answer: The Census Bureau will use two approaches in its standard data products, to present data for people reporting two or more races. One approach, which will be implemented in selected data products, is to show the 57 possible combinations of the six race groups (White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and Some other race). These detailed categories can be combined, if desired, to show the number of people with two races, the number with three races, and so forth.

The second approach, which also will be implemented in selected data products, is to show the number of times a respondent reports one of the six race categories either alone in or combination with the other five race categories. Thus, the tabulation category "Black or African American alone or in combination with one or more other races" will include all people who reported only Black or African American and people who reported Black or African American in combination with any of the other five race categories.

Question: Will people who report two or more races be counted twice?

Answer: No. Individuals will be counted only once. However, in tabulation approaches including the 6 race groups shown alone or in combination with one or more other races, respondents will be tallied in each of the race groups they have reported. For example, people who reported "Asian and Black or African American" would be counted both in the "Asian alone or in combination" population and also in the "Black or African American alone or in combination" population. Consequently, the total of the six alone or in combination groups will exceed the total population whenever some people in the group of interest reported more than one race.

Question: How will people who do not mark any check box in the question on race, but provide a write-in entry of "Black and White" be counted in the census?

Answer: These individuals will be counted in the category "Two or more races." In tabulations where specific combinations are shown, these individuals will be tabulated in the category "White and Black or African American."


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | (301) 763-3030
Last Revised: May 28, 2010 at 10:32:57 AM