California’s Multiracial Population

Posted in Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Reports, United States on 2011-02-07 03:49Z by Steven

California’s Multiracial Population

Public Policy Institute of California
California Counts: Population Trends and Profiles
Volume 6, Number 1 (August 2004)
20 pages

Laura E. Hill, Associate Director and Research Fellow
Public Policy Institute of California

Hans P. Johnson, Editor; Director of Research and Thomas C. Sutton Chair in Policy Research
Public Policy Institute of California

Sonya M. Tafoya, Research Associate
Pew Hispanic Center


Before Census 2000, Americans were asked to choose just one race when identifying themselves and their children. With the advent of the option to choose one or more races in Census 2000, there was a great deal of uncertainty about just how many Americans consider themselves to be multiracial. As with other issues related to racial and ethnic diversity, California is leading the nation—5 percent of the state’s population is identified as being of more than one race, about twice the rate as in the rest of the nation. In this issue of California Counts, we explore this newly identified population. We find that California’s multiracial population is hard to characterize with any basic summary statistics. Overall, people who identify themselves as multiracial are younger, less educated, slightly more likely to be foreign-born, and more likely to be living in poverty than single-race Californians. However, multiracial Californians are of many racial combinations, with very different characteristics according to the particular combination. For example, the median age of individuals identified as both black and white is only 12 years, compared to 36 years for American Indian and white Californians. The poverty rates for individuals identified as Asian and white is less than half that of Hispanics who identify as both white and some other race. For the most part, biracial Asian and whites, American Indian and whites, and black and whites have socioeconomic characteristics intermediate to those of their monoracial counterparts. However, both black and whites and Asian and whites are significantly younger than their monoracial counterparts, suggesting that the characteristics of the multiracial population could change as more and more children are born to parents of different races and potentially retain multiracial identity as they grow into adulthood and have their own children. In the near term, the presence of this new multiracial option presents some challenges for the collection and analysis of demographic data at the state and national levels. We already see evidence that demographic rates calculated using different data sources can lead to implausible results for multiracial populations. Ultimately, the size and significance of the multiracial population of California will depend at least partly on future preferences with respect to identity. The ability to choose more than one race on state forms and future censuses along with increasing rates of intermarriage could lead more Californians to choose a multiracial identity. As the multiracial population grows, it has the power to challenge and even transform our understanding of race in California.

…What is especially notable about California’s multiracial population is how few of the state’s 58 counties have less than 3 percent of their population that is multiracial (recall that the national average was 2.4%). Indeed, only Mono county has a lower proportion of its residents that are multiracial than the national average (2.2%). The six most multiracial cities in the state each have multiracial population shares of 7 percent or higher (Table 4).

More than 10 percent of Southern California’s Glendale population is multiracial, as is over 7 percent of the population in a number of cities in the wider San Francisco Bay Area (Hayward, Fairfield, Pittsburg, South San Francisco, and Antioch). In Glendale, most multiracial residents are SOR  (some other race)+white, with ancestry data indicating many of Armenian descent. Newport Beach, in Southern California, has the lowest percentage of multiracial residents (1.7%).

Because Hispanic SOR+whites are the most common multiracial group statewide, they also tend to dominate the multiracial population in any given locale. When we examine California’s ten largest cities (Table 5), we find that Hispanic SOR+whites are the most common multiracial group in nine of them.

San Francisco, California’s tenth largest city, is the one exception, where Asian+whites are the most common multiracial group. Los Angeles, the largest city in the state, has the greatest number of multiracial individuals of any city statewide, and this is true for each of the five most common biracial groups…

Read the entire report here.

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