The Census Bureau is expanding the way Americans are able to identify themselves racially on future census counts. These recommendations stem from new government research that examined the best way to calculate America’s expanding cultural identity.
The three groups that would be most impacted by these changes are African-Americans, Hispanics and Middle Easterners. The 2010 census revealed that many Americans did not identify with the current categories used by the Census Bureau to classify race.
The difficulty that many Americans of diverse backgrounds face is the distinction between race and ethnicity. While one group may identify with an ethnic category, Latino for example, they may not identify with racial distinctions that are applied broadly under the current system.
An Afro- Latino has distinctive physical characteristics that would be categorized as Negro, but their cultural traditions might be more in line with the Hispanic culture. The National Institute for Latino Policy reports that during the 2010 census as many as 500,000 people did not feel they fit into the five government’s defined categories of race.
Outgoing Census Director Robert Groves talked to the Associated Press about how the nature of American diversity requires changes in the census to accurately track the country’s racial and ethnic composition.
“As new immigrant groups came to this country decade after decade, how we measure ethnicity changed to reflect the changing composition of the country,” Groves said. “Since that change is never ending and America gets more and more diverse, how we understand and tabulate the information has to be continually open to change.”
“It’s critical that race and ethnicity reflect how people identify themselves,” he said.
Many Americans may find that these categorical changes will give them an opportunity to more clearly define their ethnic and racial background. Politically, these changes could shift how a previously pooled racial group is represented in Congress.
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