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More Hispanics tell Census Bureau they're 'white'

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Immigration,Race and Diversity,Census,Hispanics,Census Bureau

Over the past 10 years, a growing number of Hispanics have changed their race and origin to “white,” according to top Census officials.

While whites, blacks and Asians generally kept their status between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census review of the population, Hispanics, especially among younger immigrants, were quicker to change.

In a working paper titled “America’s Changing Races: Race and Ethic Response Changes between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census,” the authors found that at 9.7 million Hispanics changed their racial and origin status.

Of those, 2.3 million changed from “Hispanic-some other race” to “Hispanic white,” and 417,855 just declared themselves “white.”

The study, published last week, is the largest ever to look at how Census respondents change their racial status between the population surveys taken every decade.

The Census Bureau determined that between 2000 and 2010, 8.3 percent of Hispanics changed their “race and/or Hispanic origin response.” For blacks it was 5 percent and just 1 percent for whites.

The report didn’t offer detailed reasons for the change, but it did suggest some hints:

There are many reasons why a person’s race and/or Hispanic origin response might change. For example, people may have different race/Hispanic identities highlighted in different situations and this could be reflected in their answers. Household members might differ in their interpretation of another household member’s race/Hispanic origin, causing a measured change when respondents change.

Involvement in new social networks and interactions — as when going to college, moving to a new area, or changing socioeconomic status — can also impact identity and thus reporting.

New immigrants sometimes undergo a transformation of their self-identified race as they come to understand, and perhaps accept, how the American public sees them. Even small changes in questionnaire design or data collection procedures can affect how people respond to a questionnaire.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.