This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Multiracial Categories Mess Up Government Statistics

One of the interesting side-effects of the Census Bureau's decision (with approval from the Office of Management and Budget) in 2000 to include a multi-racial question on the census is that government bean-counters (and, to be fair, researchers as well) have more difficulty pigeon-holing people in terms of their race. Of course, that was the whole idea--the United States is an increasingly multi-racial society and the statistics should reflect that fact. This gets more complicated when government agencies, or other organizations, do not follow the Census Bureau's practice of keeping race separate from Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. Thus, the New York Times today chews over how to categorize a young woman--
"a university student who is of Peruvian, Chinese, Irish, Shawnee and Cherokee descent — as “Hispanic.” But the National Center for Health Statistics, the government agency that tracks data on births and deaths, would pronounce her “Asian” and "Hispanic." And what does Ms. López-Mullins’s birth certificate from the State of Maryland say? It doesn’t mention her race. Ms. López-Mullins, 20, usually marks “other” on surveys these days, but when she filled out a census form last year, she chose Asian, Hispanic, Native American and white."
If you have looked at the census data or ACS data on race and ethnicity, you know that the Census Bureau provides nearly all possible combinations for examination, but most people who gather the data from the public do not do this--at least not yet.

The mixing of racial and ethnic groups in the United States is almost certainly a societally integrating phenomenon, and The Economist this week reports that David Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, is at least implicitly unhappy that the UK has not moved in that direction. 
ON FEBRUARY 5th David Cameron gave a speech about Islamism and British values at a conference in Munich. Back home, the rows have not stopped since. Much of the fuss has a distinctly synthetic tang. Absurdly, Sadiq Khan, the Labour shadow justice secretary, accused the prime minister of “writing propaganda” for a far-right group that held a rally on the same day. Conservatives chortled that Mr Cameron had hailed the end of multiculturalism. What he actually said was that a doctrine of “state multiculturalism” had encouraged Britons to live segregated lives. In its stead, he proposed a “muscular liberalism” that confronts extremism and promotes a British identity open to all.
Although the thrust of his argument is that integration is needed to combat Islamic terrorism, there can be little argument that people who keep themselves separate from others, or are kept separate from others, are less likely to feel integrated into the broader society. This probably works for those in the demographic majority, not just the minority.

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