Examine the numbers behind the new census option to share multiracial heritage

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There is no doubt that the number of racial and ethnic populations in cities, counties and states across the country is a factor in many government programs and grants, and in long-term planning. It’s been such a long time.

Earlier this month, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a report that “EPA analysis indicates that racial and ethnic minority communities are particularly vulnerable to the greatest impacts of climate change “. In February of this year, the Brennan Center for Justice highlighted the problems of minority populations in the redistribution of congressional districts.

The Policy Matters Ohio think tank publishes on its website the various ways in which racial disparities affect states in the Midwest, including Ohio. The JAMA Network Open medical research publication found that “death rates have differed dramatically for black and white populations in 30 major US cities over the past decade.”

Why raise this? The basic problem at play now is that the United States Census recently changed the way Americans’ race is counted in the 2020 Census, and there are a lot of misconceptions about what that means and how. of which this was done. Along with that, there is an equal amount of uncertainty as to how these new numbers will affect policy and planning, as they could be linked to racial disparity in many ways.

The census allowed respondents to verify that the usual box (as they had done in the past) that denoted what race you were – white, Hispanic, African American, Asian, etc. But they added a second box below the first. which allowed individuals to indicate whether one of their parents or grandparents was different from the original box which was checked. You can verify that you are white in the top box and then say you have an ancestor of African American grandparents in the second box, the result being that you are multiracial.

But neither whites nor blacks alone as you could have been counted as before.

So how do you interpret the results? The first key is not to think that a racial population is decreasing or increasing in such large numbers based on the differences between the data collection of the 2010 and 2020 censuses. For example, in 2010 there were approximately 223 million people. Americans who were counted as white, and that number has fallen to 204 million this year due to the influence of parents or grandparents. As might be expected, the number of “multiracials” has increased dramatically, from 9 million to 25 million as a result.

The importance of these numbers, and how the multiracial designation might impact racial disparity programs and policies, is how important it becomes to know how the local numbers are scrutinized.

Let’s take a look at the multiracial population shifts in Ohio and the multiracial population shifts in the state’s 88 counties. The census office now has a website where you can find specific numbers down to county demographics. This dataset is very important because it shows some of the misinterpretations that many see.

First, changes in census data are sometimes difficult to interpret because the Hispanic or Latin American population has always been counted separately (in terms of multiracial origin). But the differences between African-American or Asian or Hispanic “lonely” designations did not change much in Ohio between 2010 and 2020 (for example, African Americans in Ohio made up 12.2% of the population. of the State in 2010 and 12.5% ​​in 2020).

What has changed are those who have called themselves “white alone” and “multiracial”. What has happened is that the “single white” population declined in 2020 because this population (along with everyone else) had the opportunity to elaborate on their racial / ethical heritage in more detail.

Ohio’s “white-only” population fell from 82.7% to 77% of the state’s population from 2010 to 2020. That’s a loss of about 460,000 between the two censuses. Those who identified themselves as multiracial (two or more races in their background) have grown from 2.1% of the state’s population in 2010 to 5.8% of the population in 2020. The gain in multiracial designations is d ‘approximately 444,000 between those ten years.

As can easily be seen, the differences in plus / minus census numbers between “white alone” and “multiracial” between 2010 and 2020 are almost identical. This means that part of the population has changed its designation given the choices.

The biggest changes in multiracial percentage increases have been in suburban counties like Geauga, Medina and Union counties, all of which have seen their multiracial populations increase by over 300%. But these large percentage increases are based on relatively small actual population numbers.

For example, Geauga County, a suburb east of Cleveland, saw its multiracial population increase from 788 in 2010 to 3,618 in 2020, an increase of 0.8% of the population to 3.8%. The increase is listed by the US Census at 359% increases (the biggest change among the 88 counties in Ohio) even though the percentage of the overall county plus / minus population is relatively small.

In contrast, changes in large cities are smaller in percentage increase, but much larger in actual population numbers. Hamilton County, birthplace of Cincinnati, saw its multiracial increase increase by 177%, which ranks 54e between counties in the state. But it was 30,000 more people who called themselves multiracial.

And that’s why this new way of counting can be so difficult to pin down. Hamilton County has more than 10 times more “multiracial” people than Geauga County between 2010 and 2020, but is ranked 53 places lower.

Hamilton County gained about 30,000 multiracial people and lost 26,000 whites. Geauga County gained 2,800 multiracials and lost about 1,100 whites. The two counties had little change in the overall population.

Interpretations of how the population has changed – or not really that much, in flat growing states like Ohio – are hard to get planners and political science professors to comment on. For example, how are you going to plan for diversity factors in school now? Should a school-aged child who has two white parents and a Hispanic grandparent be counted the same race as another child with two African-American parents and an Asian grandparent?

“I think the worst way this data can be, and has been used, is by white nationalists who are going through things like, ‘Our group is being wiped out. We are threatened, ”said Jennifer Richeson, a psychologist at Yale University who studies racial identity in a recent interview.

“There are a lot of complications with how we categorize race, including the white population,” she continued. “Why are many of us so interested in watching what’s going on with this specific group of non-Hispanic white Americans? It’s confusing to me that we are so concerned about this.

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