November 6, 2015

Who Is Multiracial? Depends on How You Ask

By Miguel Valdez Soto

A Comparison of Six Survey Methods to Capture Racial Identity

Consider, for example, a man whose mother is Asian and whose father is white. This may seem like someone who could easily be categorized as multiracial. But if this man was raised with little or no interaction with his white relatives or had experiences that were more closely aligned with those of the Asian community, he may well select “Asian” and nothing else when describing his race. Furthermore, some adults may have relatives of different races farther back in their family tree. While some people may think to include a more distant relative of a different race when asked about their racial background, others may not, even if they are aware of their family history.

With this in mind, we set out to test six different ways of defining a population of mixed-race adults to survey, using as our primary vehicle Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), a probability-based, nationally representative online panel of adults in the United States. We tested these different approaches with impaneled individuals who participated in more than one Pew Research Center survey, allowing us to examine how the same individual might have changed his or her responses depending on the question asked.

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Tags: census, Community, identity, Multiracial, Research, Research awarnes and dissemination

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