Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What's Behind the Spike in Multiracial Hispanics?

One of the more startling finds from the latest 2020 Census release is the extraordinary rise in Hispanics identifying as multiracial (from 6 percent in 2010 to 33 percent of Hispanics in 2020) and a concomitant sharp decline in Hispanics identifying their race as white only (from 53 percent to 20 percent). [chart below]
This remarkable shift in a short ten year time span has led to some enthusiastic speculation that Trump has made Hispanics feel their minority status more acutely and/or Hispanics, in the wake of the "racial reckoning" are increasingly choosing to reject "whiteness".
I've got my doubts about all this. The Census made some significant changes to the race-ethnicity part of their survey instrument that could easily have led to response changes that have little to do with real world shifts in personal identification.
As noted in a New York Times article on the multiracial spike:
"Last year’s census form differed substantially from the one in 2010, Rachel Marks, chief of the racial statistics branch at the Census Bureau, said in an interview. Lines were added under the boxes for Black and for white, where respondents could describe in more nuance their racial backgrounds. Coding capacity improved too, capturing far more detail in people’s written answers than before.
Some of those changes, she said, contributed to the rise in the numbers of people who identified as more than one race — though precisely what share, she could not say.
“It’s not just one thing,” Ms. Marks said in an interview on Friday. “We improved the questions. There were new write-in lines. All in addition to the ways that we processed and coded the data.”
Demographic change was a factor too, though she said it was impossible to say how much of the dramatic growth it accounted for."
Exactly. For detail on the Census changes, you may want to look at the Census document linked to below. Or not, it's pretty weeds-y. But to my mind these changes are a prime suspect for a big chunk of the observed spike in multiracial identification among Hispanics. One lesson here is to always check question wording and changes when very large shifts in survey response are observed.
May be an image of text that says 'Table Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race: 2010 and 2020 Hispanic Latino origin by race Total population 2010 2020 Percent 100.0 Number 308,745,538 50,477,594 26,735,713 1,243,471 Number 331,449,281 Hispanic Latino White alone. Black African American alone American Indian and Alaska Native alone Asian Native Hawaiian Other Pacific Islander alone Some Other Race alone. Two or More Change, 2010 Percent 2020 100.0 16.3 53.0 2.5 1.4 0.4 Number 22,703,743 11,602,450 -14,156,087 12,579,626 1,163,862 1,475,436 267,330 18.7 20.3 1.9 2.4 Percent 7.4 23.0 -52.9 209,128 58,437 18,503,103 3,042,592 6.0 26,225, 20,299,960 115.3 790,286 58,202 9,511 7,722,779 17,257,368 42.2 32.7 16.3 567.2'
Steven Sherman and Tim Farley

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