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Measuring Racial Discrimination 2 Defining Race The focus on measuring racial discrimination in this report raises an initial question of “What is race?” Defining race is a task far more complex than can be accomplished in this chapter. In fact, there is little consensus on what race actually means (Alba, 1992; for discussions on the meaning of race, see Anderson and Fienberg, 2000; Appiah, 1992; Fredrickson, 2002; Jones, 1997; Loury, 2002; Omi, 2001; Winant, 2001). Therefore, we only briefly describe ways in which race (and ethnicity) may be defined, rather than attempting an in-depth analysis. In this chapter, we first summarize biological and social concepts of race. Next, we present background on the history and meaning of race (and ethnicity) in the United States. We then briefly discuss the federal government’s racial and ethnic categories for data collection (which are examined more fully in Chapter 10) and highlight the ambiguities that complicate the definition and measurement of race. We conclude that, for analyzing discrimination and its effects on social, economic, political, and other outcomes for population groups, race is best thought of as a social construct that evolves over time. The discussion here and in the next two chapters makes clear that data on race and ethnicity are necessary—despite measurement problems—for monitoring and analyzing evolving differences and trends among groups in the U.S. population. BIOLOGICAL DEFINITION Biological classifications of race were first developed from the work of eighteenth-century naturalists who studied population groups in what had
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Measuring Racial Discrimination been relatively isolated geographic areas (for further discussion, see Montagu, 1972; Zuberi, 2001). The term “race” was used to distinguish populations in different areas on the basis of differing physical characteristics that had developed over time, such as skin color, facial features, and other characteristics (van den Berghe, 1967; Zuckerman, 1990). Recently, genetics researchers have found evidence of genetic clusters that correspond to geographically similar populations and yield the kinds of phenotypic variations that have been used to construct concepts of race. Rosenberg et al. (2002) report on a study of 1,056 individuals from 52 different populations. The researchers found that a “soft” classification method using no a priori information on population groups identified six genetic clusters, five of which correspond directly to major geographic regions, as well as subclusters corresponding to specific populations. However, they concluded that within-population differences accounted for 93–95 percent of genetic variation in these individuals, supporting the argument that there are only small genetic differences among geographically different groups. Although not all scientists agree (see Crow, 2002; Mayr, 2002; van den Berghe, 1967; Zuckerman, 1990), many critics deny that meaningful distinctions among contemporary human groups can be derived from a biological notion of race (see Cavalli-Sforza, 2000; Mead et al., 1968; Omi, 2001). At this point, science has not identified a set of genes that correspond with social conceptions of race. The panel offers no further discussion of any such biological components and focuses on race as a socially constructed concept. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE In virtually all human societies, people take note of and assign significance to the physical characteristics of others, such as skin color, hair texture, and distinctive features. Race becomes socially significant when members of a society routinely divide people into groups based on the possession of these characteristics. These characteristics become socially significant when members of a society routinely use them to establish racial categories into which people are classified on the basis of their own or their ancestors’ physical characteristics and when, in turn, these categorizations elicit differing social perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward each group (see, e.g., Hollinger, 2000; Loury, 2002; Smelser et al., 2001). The notion that race is about embodied social signification may be referred to as the social–cognitive approach to thinking about race (Fiske and Taylor, 1991; Loury, 2002). It is important to understand that this approach is conceptually distinct from biological–taxonomic notions of racial classification. No objective racial taxonomy need be valid to warrant the
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Measuring Racial Discrimination subjective use of racial classifications. In the social–cognitive sense, “races” may be identified in a society, acknowledged over generations, and believed to be biologically determined even though such groups may not exist in the biological–taxonomic sense. Recent behavioral and social science evidence supports the social–cognitive notion that race is a construct based on observable physical characteristics (e.g., skin color) that have acquired socially significant meaning (see Banton, 1983; Loury, 2002; Omi and Winant, 1986). In addition to physical features, ascribed and other characteristics such as given name, dress, and diet may also contribute to racial categorizations (see, e.g., Nagel, 1994). Cultural factors, such as language, religion, and nationality, have more often been used to refer to ethnicity—that is, groups of people who share a common cultural heritage, such as various European immigrant groups in the United States (Bobo, 2001).1 The social meaning given to racial classifications activates beliefs and assumptions about individuals in a particular racial category. Consequently, if someone is perceived or identifies himself or herself as belonging to the African American or another racial group—regardless of the person’s precise physical or other characteristics—that classification creates a social reality that can have real and enduring consequences. For instance, racial classification can affect access to resources (e.g., education, health care, and jobs), the distribution of income and wealth, political power, residential living patterns, and interpersonal relationships. Moreover, the consequences of racial classification over time can create boundaries among racially defined groups that affect people today. RACE IN THE UNITED STATES We begin our discussion of race in the United States with its founding in 1789.2 The founding document, the U.S. Constitution, accorded de facto recognition to white and nonwhite racial categories in order to assign political representation to the states (Anderson and Fienberg, 2000). During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, northern and southern states compromised on counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of congres- 1 Nationality is also sometimes used, as in the U.S. census race question for Asians, to distinguish subcategories for a broad racial group. The distinctions between concepts of race and ethnicity are not clear-cut. 2 For the origins of modern concepts of race and racism in Europe and the influence of European concepts on the North American colonies, see Anderson (1983), Blaut (1993), Frederickson (2002), Graham (1990), Hannaford (1996), Higginbotham (1996), Klein (1999), Northrup (1994), O’Callaghan (1980), and Winant (2001).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination sional reapportionment. In addition, Indians “not taxed” were to be excluded from the reapportionment counts. The compromise on the treatment of slaves was key to the establishment of the new government; it was implemented in the U.S. decennial census, first conducted in 1790, when enumerators were instructed to classify people as white, other free person, or slave and to exclude Indians not taxed. Because all slaves were treated as a single racial group (i.e., black), the enumeration of people by their civil status effectively produced a racial classification of whites, American Indians, and blacks (free and enslaved). Although slavery was abolished in the mid-nineteenth century, for more than 100 years federal and state laws and court decisions (e.g., Jim Crow restrictions put in place in southern states and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act) upheld racial classifications as the basis for unequal treatment of groups, serving to maintain dominant and subordinate racial groupings in U.S. society (Feagin and Feagin, 1996).3 During this period, the concepts of “white” and “nonwhite” were defined in laws and customs to exclude people from white status if they had even a small amount of nonwhite blood. Thus, progeny of black and white unions were invariably classified as “black,” regardless of their skin color or appearance. Originating in the South, the so-called one-drop rule was associated with rigid social segregation and economic exploitation. This narrow concept of whiteness even excluded many immigrant groups that are now classified as white but were not so in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Being white once signified Anglo-Saxon heritage; thus, aside from the British, Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, and Scotch-Irish, many newly arrived Southern and Eastern Europeans, among others, had to struggle to be defined as “white” in America. Irish immigrants (Ignatiev, 1995), as well as Jews, Italians, and Poles (Roediger, 1991), were often treated negatively because of their ethnic origin. Initially, ethnic and cultural traits set these groups apart from the mainstream as “nonwhites,” but over time they acquired many traits of the larger society and were assimilated into “white” U.S. culture. Immutable physical characteristics, however, made it difficult for many non-European groups to follow suit. Thus, such groups as Chinese or Japanese immigrants were denied 3 Some references on exclusion and discrimination against major nonwhite groups in the United States are, for a range of societal groups, Fiske et al. (2002); for African Americans, Beck and Tolnay (1990), Brundage (1993), Jones (1997), National Research Council (1989), Plous and Williams (1995), Stephan (1985), Stephan and Rosenfield (1982); for American Indians, Blackwell and Mehaffey (1983), Thornton (1987, 2001); for Asian Americans, Hurh and Kim (1989), Ichioka (1977), Kitano and Sue (1973), Sue and Okazaki (1990), Sue et al. (1975); for Hispanic Americans, Camarillo and Bonilla (2001), Huddy and Virtanen (1995).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination citizenship for many decades, and Chinese immigration was totally prohibited from 1882 to World War II.4 In contrast to U.S. notions of race, Latin American and Caribbean societies have generally lacked a dichotomous classification of people as white or nonwhite; they also take account of social class as well as appearance in determining degrees of “whiteness” (Degler, 1971; Toplin, 1974). Although U.S. society has generally not recognized gradations of whiteness, it has often recognized gradations within broad nonwhite racial categories on the basis of skin color and ancestry. For example, censuses from 1850 through 1890 and again in 1910 and 1920 included one or more black racial subcategories, such as black, mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon. Censuses since 1890 have also distinguished subgroups of Asians on the basis of national origin (see section on “Racial Categories in Federal Statistics” below). There is social scientific research on skin color differentiation (and discrimination) whereby members of a racial group are further distinguished (and treated differently) on the basis of their skin tone (e.g., light-skinned versus dark-skinned African Americans). Empirical accounts of this type of differentiation within racial categories include Blair et al. (2002), Keith and Herring (1991), Krieger (2000), Maddox and Gray (2002), and Thompson and Keith (2001). However, we focus on the broad classifications, which, in the United States, have carried social meaning and consequences for all their members. Most recently in the United States, stigmas attached to some nonwhite groups have appeared to diminish, and there has been increased interest by such groups as Native Americans and people of mixed race to identify themselves as such. In addition, increased immigration from Latino and Caribbean countries has highlighted ambiguities in the measurement of race for these populations. Results from recent censuses document that many Hispanic groups think of their ethnicity (as it is termed in the census) as a racial category. These people often check “other race” rather than a specifically named category, or they do not answer the race question at all. We discuss these developments, which underscore the fluid and socially and politically influenced nature of racial classification, in the next section. RACIAL CATEGORIES IN FEDERAL STATISTICS The meaning of race in the United States has shaped and been shaped by the data collected and reported by federal agencies in the census, house- 4 Recent data on segregation and intermarriage suggest that some Asian and Latino groups, after many years, may be achieving a de facto status as “honorary whites” (Charles, 2001; Farley, 1996).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination hold surveys, and administrative records systems. These data are used for many purposes, including to describe and analyze social, economic, and other differences among racial and ethnic groups and to monitor compliance with civil rights laws. Decennial Census The U.S. census, as noted above, has included questions on race in every census beginning in 1790 (see Chapter 10 for a detailed discussion). Reflecting evolving conceptions of race and the political power of different groups over time, the racial categories in the census have changed from one decade to the next (see Table 2-1). The census has also often included additional items related to racial categorization, such as questions on national origin, birthplace of parents, language spoken in the home, and ancestry. The identification of Hispanic origin in the census has varied substantially over time. In 1930 the census included “Mexican” as a separate nonwhite racial category; but after protests from the Mexican government, the category was omitted in subsequent censuses. Prior to 1970, there was no nationwide standard for identifying people of Latin American origin. From 1940 to 1970, the census coded people in five southwestern states who reported Spanish language or surname as “of Spanish origin,” and in 1960 and 1970 the census tabulated people of Puerto Rican birth or heritage in three northeastern states. The 1970 census included a Hispanic origin item that was asked of a 5 percent sample of the U.S. population. Respondents were to indicate whether their origin or descent was Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Spanish origin. Subsequent censuses have asked everyone whether they are of Hispanic origin and to indicate a specific subgroup. The ethnic origin question is separate from the race question; thus, Hispanics can be of any race. We are in agreement that “Hispanic” is an ethnicity and not a race in the way that Americans have conceptualized such racial groups as whites, blacks, and Asians. However, disadvantaged Hispanics face many of the same barriers to full participation in U.S. society as disadvantaged racial groups. Moreover, from census reporting patterns, significant proportions of Hispanics consider their origin to be synonymous with their race. For these reasons, we include Hispanics when discussing discrimination against different racial groups in this report. Federal Classification Standards Since 1977 the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided federal statistical and program administration agencies with classifi-
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Measuring Racial Discrimination TABLE 2-1 Racial Categories in the U.S. Census, 1790–2000 Year Category 1790 Free Whites, Other Free Persons, and Slaves 1800 and 1810 Free Whites; Other Free Persons, except Indians not taxed; and Slaves 1820 Free Whites, Slaves, Free Colored Persons, and other persons, except Indians not taxed 1830 and 1840 Free White Persons, Slaves, Free Colored Persons 1850 White, Black, and Mulatto 1860 White, Black, Mulatto, and Indian 1870 and 1880 White, Black, Mulatto, Chinese, and Indian 1890 White, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian 1900 White, Black, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian 1910 White, Black, Mulatto, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Other (plus write-in) 1920 White, Black, Mulatto, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu, Korean, and Other (plus write-in) 1930 White, Negro, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu, Korean (Other races, spell out in full) 1940 White, Negro, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu, Korean (Other races, spell out in full) 1950 White, Negro, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino (Other races, spell out) 1960 White, Negro, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Part Hawaiian, Aleut, Eskimo 1970 White, Negro or Black, Indian (American), Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Korean, Other (print race) 1980 White, Negro, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian (American), Asian Indian, Hawaiian, Guamanian, Samoan, Eskimo, Aleut, Other (specify) 1990 White, Black, Indian (American), Eskimo, Aleut, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Asian Indian, Samoan, Guamanian, Other Asian Pacific Islander, Other race 2000 White; Black, African American, or Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native (specify tribe); Asian Indian; Chinese; Filipino; Other Asian (print race); Japanese; Korean; Vietnamese; Hawaiian; Guamanian or Chamorro; Samoan; Other Pacific Islander (print race); Some other race (individuals who consider themselves multiracial can choose two or more races) SOURCES: 1790–1990 data adapted from Anderson and Fienberg (2000: Tables 3 and 4) and 2000 data from U.S. Census Bureau (2001a). cation standards for collecting and reporting data on race and ethnicity (these standards were most recently revised in 1997). OMB currently defines five major racial categories for use in federal data collection: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; black or African American; Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander; and white. In addition, there are two ethnic
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Measuring Racial Discrimination categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. The OMB standards state a preference for separate questions to ascertain race and ethnicity, but agencies may use a combined question in which Hispanic is treated as a race. The standards also state a preference for self-reporting of race and ethnicity as opposed to reporting by an observer. Under the 1997 standards, respondents for the first time have the option of checking more than one racial category. This option reflects changes in the nation’s diversity as a result of immigration and intermarriage among different racial groups. Although a “multiracial” option was considered, many critics believed it would hamper the ability to identify the racial groups to which “multiracial” respondents belonged (Harrison, 2002). Other critics argued that “mark one or more races” might complicate racial classification as well (see Chapter 10 for a history of the OMB categories and recent revision). OMB emphasizes that its classification standards are designed to monitor adherence to and enforce civil rights laws. “The categories in this classification are social-political constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature” (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 1997:58,788). Federal statistical and program evaluation and administrative agencies use the OMB standards to count and classify the U.S. population. Administrative data on race are collected by such agencies as the U.S. Department of Education and others to monitor equal access to opportunity in social and economic domains for groups that have experienced discrimination and that may continue to face unequal treatment because of their race or ethnic origin. Census and household survey data on race and ethnicity are collected by the Census Bureau and other statistical agencies and are widely used by federal, state, and local government agencies, private firms, nonprofit organizations, academic researchers, the media, and the general public. Uses of these data include redrawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries; calculating and analyzing vital demographic information (e.g., birth rates, infant mortality rates); monitoring compliance by employers with equal opportunity employment laws; and many other applications for research and program planning, implementation, and evaluation. The federal classification system is not an attempt to categorize all the ethnic and racial groups in the United States. For instance, the classification system does not support separate identification of many subgroups within racial populations (e.g., Caribbean-born blacks versus U.S.-born African Americans, or foreign-born versus native-born Asians) or of the large numbers of immigrant groups to the United States. Federal agencies such as the Census Bureau can use more detailed subcategories of race (e.g., Vietnamese, Korean, or Filipino for Asian groups) as long as they collapse to the
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Measuring Racial Discrimination basic five categories cited above. The census is also allowed to use a category of “other race.” MEASUREMENT ISSUES The Ambiguity of Race As a social–cognitive construct, the meaning of race in the United States has changed and will likely continue to change over time with changing sociopolitical norms, economic patterns, and waves of immigration (e.g., the assimilation of some European immigrant groups from “nonwhite” to “white” status in the first half of the twentieth century and the growing acknowledgment of mixed-race origins in the twenty-first century). Moreover, race has and may continue to have different meanings for different groups, sometimes overlapping and sometimes not (Lieberman, 1993). For instance, some Hispanics, who can be of any race in the OMB classification system, identify themselves primarily by ethnic or national origin (e.g., Mexican, Cuban, or Puerto Rican) (de la Garza et al., 1992).5 In contrast, other Hispanics consider Hispanic or Latino to be a race on a par with black, white, Asian, and American Indian (Denton and Massey, 1989; Harris, 2002; U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 1997). Furthermore, whereas historically Americans have most often viewed racial categories as mutually exclusive, Hispanics have tended to see race along a continuum (Nobles, 2000). Thus, there is research evidence that many Latin American and Latin Caribbean immigrants who come to the United States see themselves as being of mixed origin, most commonly European and American Indian or European and African.6 Shifts in societal views on race, political pressures from different groups, increasing diversity in the country’s population, and consequent changes in data collection standards and practices add ambiguity to the way we understand race and interpret data on race. Two specific measurement problems are inconsistent reporting for individuals and groups, currently and over time, and different data collection practices, such as self-reporting in surveys and, frequently, reporting by others in administrative records systems. 5 Although this identification may vary among Hispanics who are foreign versus native born, first versus second generation, and so on. 6 Over time and with greater exposure to U.S. culture and society, some Latin American immigrants and their children come to understand the Anglo-American conceptualization of race and shift to the U.S. taxonomy. Indeed, rising socioeconomic status, multiple generations born in the United States, and time spent in the United States reliably predict racial identification as “white,” and such identification is often used as an indicator of cultural assimilation (Massey and Denton, 1992).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination Some researchers have suggested that multiple indicators are needed to fully understand racial categorization in American society today. Inconsistent Reporting Population groups and individuals vary in their consistency of reporting race when comparing surveys across time and with each other. In particular, there has always been considerable confusion regarding the responses of Latin American and Caribbean groups to the separate race question used in the census and surveys. Many Latin Americans and Caribbeans reject the racial categories on the census, select “other race,” and write in a word that to them best describes their racial identity.7 For instance, Latin Caribbeans might use “moreno,” “trigeño,” or “Boricua,” and Central and South Americans might use “mestizo,” “la raza,” “Mexicano,” or some other term denoting a mix of races (Denton and Massey, 1989). From 1940 through 1970, the Census Bureau assumed that such responses were incorrect because Hispanic respondents misunderstood the race question. Accordingly, all such responses were recoded as “white.” In 1980, however, the Census Bureau for the first time accepted such responses, grouped them into one category, and treated Hispanic data as “racial” data (i.e., responses were recoded as “Spanish race”)—a practice generally continued in 1990 and, with greater complexity, in 2000. This practice further adds to the confusion about how to classify Hispanics as a group. Different question formats or wording can also affect responses and enumeration of Hispanics. For instance, according to various studies, when questions about race and Hispanic origin are reversed so that the race question follows the ethnic origin question (as was done in the 2000 census), response rates for Hispanic origin are higher, and fewer respondents choose “other race” (Anderson and Fienberg, 2000; Bates et al., 1994; del Pinal, 2003; Martin et al., 1990; Tucker and Kojetin, 1996; see also Harris, 2002). For another example, a 1995 supplement to the Current Population Survey found that a smaller proportion of respondents identified themselves as Hispanic when a combined race and Hispanic origin question was used, compared with having separate questions on race and ethnicity.8 Finally, 7 In the 2000 census, 97 percent of people reporting “some other race” were of Hispanic origin, and about one-half of Hispanics either marked “some other race” or marked two or more races, most often a combination of “white” and “some other race” (del Pinal, 2003). 8 More details on the Tucker and Kojetin (1996) study can be found in Chapter 9. A Race and Ethnic Targeted Test survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 1996 tested a combined race and ethnicity question that, in contrast to the 1995 Current Population Survey supplement, allowed respondents to mark one or more categories. The 1996 survey found no decline in reporting of Hispanic origin in comparison with the two-question format. Nonresponse was also significantly reduced in the combined format (Hirschman et al., 2000).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination studies that have compared responses for the same individuals with separate surveys show high rates of consistency for reporting of Hispanic origin but low rates of consistency for reporting of race by Hispanics (see del Pinal, 2003, for a summary of such studies conducted in conjunction with the 2000 census). Inconsistent reporting of race on surveys is also problematic for other groups, although not to the same extent as for Hispanics. For American Indian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander groups—both small populations—rates of inconsistent reporting across surveys can be high. For instance, census counts of American Indians and Alaska Natives increased dramatically following the 1950 census—by 51 percent from 1950 to 1960, 50 percent from 1960 to 1970, and 71 percent from 1970 to 1980. Factors driving the increases included not only increased life expectancy but also the change from observer to self-reporting in the census, growing ethnic pride, and reduction in stigma from being identified as anything other than white. There are no data on how many people changed their racial category between censuses, but such people likely accounted for a major part of the growth in the American Indian population after 1950 (Snipp, 2000). High levels of inconsistent reporting also characterized people who chose more than one race in the 2000 census, which was the first census to allow multiracial identification. Overall, only 2.4 percent of the population marked more than one race, but 8 percent of children ages 0 to 4 had two or more races marked, indicating that the multiracial population is likely to grow in number.9 However, nearly one-third of multiracial respondents were of Hispanic origin, many of whom checked “white” and “some other race.” Also, results from the National Health Interview Survey suggest that, if prompted, a majority of people choosing more than one race will select one primary racial category (see Sondik et al., 2000). Overall, these results illustrate how respondents have different concepts for race and ethnicity, leading to subjective responses (Anderson and Fienberg, 2000). Subjectivity and ambiguity of responses make it difficult to collect complete and reliably reported information on race and ethnicity. Furthermore, with changes to questions or to category labels for some groups over time (e.g., the Asian or Pacific Islander category was split into two separate categories), differences in who reports the race of an individual (the individual, another household member, or an observer), and changing political reasons for identifying with a particular race (e.g., civil rights enforcement, collective identity), responses can be inconsistent and difficult to interpret. 9 There was also evidence of a rise in interracial births between 1977 (2.0 percent) and 1998 (5.3 percent), which suggests that the multiracial population is growing (National Center for Health Statistics, 2001).
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Measuring Racial Discrimination Despite these problems, it is important to note that 98 percent of the U.S. population identified with one race in the 2000 census (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a; see also Table 10-2 in Chapter 10). Moreover, studies conducted in conjunction with the census (see del Pinal, 2003) find high levels of consistent reporting for people reporting African American, Asian, or white race, even when the data are collected by different methods (e.g., computer-assisted personal interviewing versus mail response) and use different question formats. Self-Identification of Race According to OMB’s 1997 revised standards, self-identification or self-reporting is the preferred method of collecting data on race and ethnicity (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 1997). Self-identification is used in most surveys (and has been used in the census for most of the population since 1960), but many administrative racial identification forms are filled out by someone other than the person being surveyed (e.g., by a parent, survey administrator, health care worker, or police officer). Some people believe self-identification is the only reasonable method because it allows people to express their own racial identity (see Harris, 2002). Others argue against self-identification because they believe federal racial data, if used to monitor and enforce civil rights, should capture the observer’s report of an individual’s race—after all, people are most often discriminated against on the basis of observers’ beliefs. The revised OMB standards state that, although the data are used for civil rights enforcement, the government should not tell individuals how to classify their race (Harris, 2002; U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 1997). Using different approaches to identify and report race and ethnicity can make it difficult to compare racial categorizations across time and among data sets. Moreover, reporting procedures are not often the same even within a single data set. For example, 78 percent of occupied households mailed back a questionnaire in the 2000 census, but the remaining forms were obtained by enumerators in follow-up, sometimes from neighbors or landlords (Stackhouse and Brady, 2003). In addition, one person typically fills out a census questionnaire for an entire household, which can result in different racial categorizations from those that each household member would have chosen individually. Multiple Indicators of Racial Identification Harris (2002) argues that classifying race is a social process that varies across contexts and observers. He uses a matrix to illustrate the multidimensional, socially constructed nature of racial classification (see Figure
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Measuring Racial Discrimination FIGURE 2-1 A matrix of race. SOURCE: Harris (2002). 2-1). To determine an individual’s race, people may use one or more ancestry or biological bases, phenotypic or physical characteristics, and cultural bases, such as ideology and language. Furthermore, racial classifications for an individual may differ according to the perspective of the person making the classification: internal (self-classification based on an individual’s beliefs about his or her own race); expressed (self-classification based on how an individual presents his or her race to others—e.g., choosing not to identify as a member of a nonwhite group to avoid stigmatization); and external (classification by observers based on their views of an individual’s race). These dimensions are not mutually exclusive; they all interact within a social context. Thus, a mixed-race individual may identify herself as multiracial in private settings but express her dominant race in public and be classified in different categories by different observers. Obtaining multiple indicators of racial identification would likely provide helpful data to inform racial classification and analysis. As Harris notes, however, indicators for race along these lines are not available in most current data sets. To collect these data, it would be necessary to add specific additional categories and observations, still further complicating the measurement and analysis of race data. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION There is no single concept of race. Rather, race is a complex concept, best viewed for social science purposes as a subjective social construct based on observed or ascribed characteristics that have acquired socially signifi-
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Measuring Racial Discrimination cant meaning. Indeed, for the purpose of measuring racial discrimination, a social–cognitive concept of race is integral to meaningful analysis. The reason is that racial discrimination historically has been and continues today to be a phenomenon of social attitudes and behaviors, stemming from people’s perceptions (see Chapters 3 and 4). There is no scientifically objective information that people use or can use as a basis for creating unambiguous, consistent racial classifications that have social meaning and effects. In the United States, ways in which different populations think about their own and others’ racial status have been affected over time by changing patterns of immigration, social and economic change, and changes in societal norms and government policies. The subjectivity of race and the heterogeneity within population groups add further ambiguity to classifying different populations by race. Overall, federal racial categories provide only a partial picture of the heterogeneity and growing diversity of the U.S. population and of the complexity of racial classification. Moreover, factors related to survey and administrative records design and implementation—such as changes in racial categories, methods of reporting data (self-reports or observer reports), and allocation rules for single races and multiple-race combinations—have implications for the collection, use, and interpretation of data on race (especially when attempting to compare data for racial categories in different data sets). Yet most people continue to identify with a single race, and consistency of reporting is high for some major racial groups. Conclusion: For the purpose of understanding and measuring racial discrimination, race should be viewed as a social construct that evolves over time. Despite measurement problems, data on race and ethnicity are important to collect (the reasons why are discussed more thoroughly in Chapters 3 and 4).
Representative terms from entire chapter: