Policy

Multiracial Americans advocates for these policies. Return frequently for updates.

RECENT ACTIONS

OMB LISTENING SESSION

Date: November 21, 2022

From: Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC) Board of Directors

To: Office of Management and Budget

Subject: Proposed revisions and policy recommendations to OMB Statistical Directive 15

Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC) has been in operation for over thirty years and performed a key role in crafting and supporting the revisions to Federal policy that allowed marking one or more race through our co-founding of Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans (AMEA).  From this data we discovered in 2020 that the multiracial population constituted over 10% of the US population.  Estimates prior to this date from organizations such as the Pew Research Center and from US Census Bureau testing suggested the multiracial population was much higher than the 2010 accounting of 2.9% of the US population and they were right.  It is interesting to note that while some of the 276% population increase between 2010 and 2020 was due to organic growth (i.e., births and immigration), some is due to the change in methodology from the US Census Bureau.  This only reinforces the significance government policy plays in accurately counting the multiracial population.  The following recommendations represent MASC’s request for updates and related policy proposals for Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (Directive No. 15): Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity to achieve a better accounting of the multiracial community.

  1. Revise the ethnic identity question to allow mixed Latino and non-Latino responses and multiple Latino sub-group responses.

Currently there is no official government data on people of mixed Latino and non-Latino identity also known as Latinx of Mixed Ancestry (LOMA) due to the current standards either requiring marking only one category or answering “yes” or “no” to Latino identity.  Instead, the number of these persons must be inferred from other sources of data.  For example, it is known approximately a quarter of marriages among Latinos is to non-Latinos.[1]  If we assume a minimum of one child per marriage then we quickly get to at least a quarter of the Latino population being mixed with non-Latinos and this does not count children born outside of marriage.  In Census data from 2010 to 2020, the Some Other Race population that was counted in combination with another racial group went from 2.6M to almost 22M people.[2]  Since it is known that the Some Other Race population is primarily Latino (over 90%)[3], it may be inferred that this population is mixed Latino and non-Latino.  In 2020, about 60% of the multiracial population also claimed a Latino identity up from about 34% in 2010.[4]  There is a level of mixing among Latinos that is completely being missed.

Forcing the selection of only Latino or non-Latino identity rather than allowing multiple choice results in a decrease in the Latino population.  Current Population Survey (CPS) data has shown that identification as Mexican can drop rapidly based on generations after immigration and degrees of inter-mixing from parents.[5]  However, what the CPS data cannot show is if the reason for this drop is due to cultural attrition or simply the inability to select multiple categories.  It is unlikely that this change would result in a decrease in the Latino population since persons currently marking Latino would not likely stop in a combined question.  However, persons that are currently marking “no” on the singular question that forces marking only one category may be inclined to mark Latino in addition to their other identities when given the opportunity.  This would lead to an increase in the Latino population albeit in a multi-ethnic or multi-racial way.

  • We support combining the ethnic and race identity questions into a single question.

Making Latino a racial category will also achieve the goals of policy recommendation #1.  This would have the added benefit of reducing the Some Other Race population which is problematic since no one actually identifies as “other.”  The 2010 Alternative Questionnaire Experiment showed a drop from almost 6% of the population to less than 1% of the population when tested with multiple question versions.[6]  In 2020, almost 65% of the Two or More races population included Some Other Race.[7]  It would be good to know more precisely who these people are.

  • The time allotted for governmental agencies to comply with updated Statistical Directives should be limited to less than five years.

The OMB last revised statistical directives in 1997.  The Department of Education didn’t issue its updated standards requirements until 2007.  Ten years is far too long a time to allow for agencies to adopt standards, especially when the updates are essentially software related.  Budgets are not being asked to change.  There is no headcount increase or significant capital expenses.  Justice delayed is justice denied.

  • We support the creation of a Middle Eastern North African (MENA) category

While this issue is not of direct consequence to the multiracial community, we support efforts to disaggregate racial data and empower individuals to describe themselves more fully and accurately.  Such an act is the first step in measuring inequality and discrimination and is critical for the enforcement of civil rights legislation.

  • We support the combining of multiple race populations with singular race populations to support enforcement of civil rights legislation

Multiracial Americans are just as interested in civil rights and equity as all other people of color.  If combining the numbers of mixed-race people with singular race people supports the enforcement of civil rights legislation then this should continue.  This is not a denial or erasure of mixed-race identity since mixed-race people continue to be members of the communities from which their parents and ancestors were birthed.  This membership does not end with having a mixed identity and this may actually be dangerous for mixed-race people and society at large.[8]


[1] Lopez, Mark Hugo, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Gustavo López, December 20, 2017, “Hispanic Identity Fades Across Generations as Immigrant Connections Fall Away”, Pew Research Center

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File; 2020 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File

[3] U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File; 2020 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File

[4] Ibid.

[5] Brian Duncan, Stephen J. Trejo. “Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital.” Journal of Labor Economics (The University of Chicago Press) 29, no. 2 (2011): 195-227.

[6] Elizabeth Compton, Michael Bentley, Sharon Ennis, Sonya Ratogi. 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment. U.S. Census Bureau, 2012.

[7] U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File; 2020 Census Public Law Redistricting Data File (P.L. 94-171) Summary File

[8] https://multiracialamericans.org/programs/national-advocacy/Advocacy (multiracialamericans.org)

SO YOU WANT A MULTIRACIAL BOX

By Thomas Lopez, MASC Board Member

Part 1: Context is Everything

If you ask most multiracial people if they would like to have a multiracial option on a form (say for school enrollment, medical forms, or the Census) most multiracial people would probably say “yes.”  This seems reasonable because some people identify as multiracial, and they would like to have that recognized.  In fact, most people would like to see an option that closely matches their identity as much as possible.  Unfortunately, this is asking the wrong question.

There is only one valid reason for asking about race on a form and that is to measure inequality.  Most people of color, including multiracial people and some white allies, are interested in achieving racial equality.  And if you don’t count, then you can’t measure.  Including a multiracial category on forms complicates this process.  So, a better question that qualifies a multiracial option better is “would you like to have a multiracial option if it means that enforcing civil rights laws is more difficult?”  Suddenly a multiracial option does not seem so appealing anymore.

We will be sharing a series of posts to this newsletter that will explore the ways that a multiracial option can complicate measuring inequality.  Tune in each week for a new explanation of what is at stake.  But also be hopeful of the possibilities.

Part 2: Aggregation

Its an unfortunate fact that to understand the impact of a multiracial option you need to have an appreciation for statistics and that is simply not exciting for most people.  They see numbers and their eyes glaze over.  So hopefully this will demystify the numbers and show the power and relevancy of data.

A multiracial option “aggregates” a diversify population and obscures unique issues facing specific communities.  “Aggregation” means the combining of data into a larger group.  There are times and places where this is appropriate.  For example, if comparing the wealth of the United States to Mexico it may make sense to aggregate the wealth data of US residents and Mexican residents.  But if you wanted to compare the wealth between Californians and Mississipians then aggregate data about US residents would be useless.

In the chart below, prepared by the Pew Research Center, we see that different mixed race “sub-groups” have very different experiences with racism.  Black-American Indians appear to experience racism at a much higher rate.  If there was a multiracial category without marking individual races then all of these numbers would be averaged together.  The values would be:

Subject to slurs or jokes: 60%

Poor service in restaurants or businesses: 45%

Unfairly stopped by police: 25%

Note that the aggregate averages above are more than 10% different from some of the “dis-aggregated” results.  If you wanted to focus policy changes to help certain groups, you would potentially miss the target because the data is not sufficient.  And it is still possible to count the number of multiracial people by simply adding together all the people that selected multiple races.

Part 3: Gerrymandering: Are Mixed-race People Still black.

Gerrymandering is the practice of changing the boundaries of a voting district so that certain politicians have a better chance of winning than others.  In essence, politicians pick their voters rather than voters picking their leaders.  Using demographics of voters (and the help of software) politicians can create favorable voting districts through processes known as “packing” and “cracking.” 

“Cracking” is when a community of voters is divided so that the resulting separate districts lack enough members of that community to result in a representative that will promote their interests.  “Packing” on the other hand is when members of a community are combined into a single or fewer districts. While the community is more likely to elect a representative in their favor, the community becomes less likely to elect representatives in multiple districts that would result in less representation in a larger legislative body.

This practice was made illegal with the 1965 Voting Rights Act regarding racial groups.  But if we step back for a moment, we can ask ourselves “how do we even know that racial gerrymandering has even occurred?” The answer is that people have been counted by race in the Census and on voter registration forms.

A multiracial category effectively erases the presence of racial groups in certain areas because multiracial people can be of any number of races.  The number of black people, for example, may be reduced in number and with less representation in the community there is less validity to claiming a community has been gerrymandered.  But if multiracial people instead identify their multiple identities, then their numbers continue to contribute to multiple communities.  In a current case before the US Supreme Court that will be decided this term, lower courts sided against the state of Alabama that created such districts.  The state of Louisiana is facing a similar case.  Both states have made the argument to lower courts that mixed race people that marked black as their race in combination with other groups should NOT be counted as black.  This is a realization of the fears many had of a multiracial category.

Part 4: Racial Profiling

The State of California passed the Race and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) in 2015.  Data is collected from the largest police departments in the state and compiled into an annual report.  A chart from the 2022 report is shown below.  The fact that the RIPA stops do not match well with the residential population data shows that racial profiling is happening in California.  What is interesting about this data is that it includes a multiracial category.  (Note that the population data is based on the 2019 American Community Survey and that the 2020 Census had the multiracial population at 14.6% in California.)

Simply the presence of a multiracial category is interesting because it is so infrequent to see.  But there’s a greater story behind these numbers.  First it must be asked why the percentage of stops is so low compared to the multiracial population?  This data suggests multiracial people are stopped at 5 times less than their population.  If 2020 population data was used the difference would be three times greater.  Could it be that multiracial people are so significantly more virtuous than other populations that they don’t get stopped by the police?

As if.

By law, a cop is not allowed to ask someone their race during a stop and yet it is the cop that is completing the stop reports that make up the data in this report.  Thus, the data in this report is based on the cop’s best guess at the racial identity of the stopped person based on looks.  With that being said, it is amazing that any multiracial people are identified at all because there’s really no “look” that defines a multiracial person.  Cops must be misidentifying multiracial people as “mono-racial” in large numbers.  So much, in fact, that the multiracial category is rendered essentially meaningless and to some degree a distraction from what is really happening.

Part 5: Marrow Donor Matching and Medical Issues


If you remember nothing else from this post remember this: ANYONE CAN BE A POTENTIAL BONE MARROW DONOR TO ANYONE ELSE.  MARROW DONOR MATCHING IS NOT DONE BY RACE.

Racial identity and healthcare inequality are murky topics because they sometimes suggest a link between biology and race, when in fact, there is no biological basis to race.  Race is a “social construct” which is a fancy way of saying it’s a “made-up idea.”  This does not negate the reality that there are social and economic factors that can lead to inequalities in healthcare that are associated with race.

In the case of marrow donation, matches between marrow recipients and potential donors are based on DNA markers.  The more markers in common the more likely the match will be successful.  But if you’re trying to find a random person in the general public that might be your match, how do you improve your odds of finding someone?  It turns out that people with similar racial identity are also more likely to have matching DNA.  Why?  The DNA that defines appearance may not be important for marrow matching.  But people that share ancestry and thus appearance are more likely to have matching marrow related DNA.  Kind of like being distant cousins.  Thus, race becomes an imperfect proxy for narrowing down a search for a likely match.

Multiracial people, due to their greater diversity, have more unique genomes that are less likely to find in the general public.  Once again, “multiracial” as a category lacks any specificity that would enable a targeted search.  The solution is to increase the numbers and diversity of participants in the national marrow donor registry.  Including specific racial identity shines light on the challenges multiracial people and other people of color have finding matches that could then motivate strangers to join the registry.  A broad multiracial category obscures that opportunity.

Part 6: Some History and the Future


After five posts discussing the problems created by a multiracial category on forms it should be clear why Federal standards are what they are today.  Even more dimensions may be explored such as incarceration rates, college enrollment, and employment equality with similar findings.

During the 1990’s several organizations including MASC worked in coalition under the umbrella of Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans (AMEA) to change Federal standards to recognize multiracial people.  In fact, a multiracial option was added to several state forms prior to any changes at the Federal level.  One proposal was to create a multiracial box on forms with the option to select individual categories beneath it.  This would lead to a much longer form with seeming redundancy as well as the possibility that someone would stop at marking multiracial and fail to complete the detailed responses.  This would result in the aggregation of racial data discussed in Part 1 of this series.  Ultimately it was decided that allowing multiple responses, rather than a multiracial option, met the interests of most parties to recognize multiracial identity in some way while still preserving the disaggregated racial data necessary to measure inequality.

The multiracial community celebrated this historic achievement in 1997 but the victory was incomplete.  One group was left out of this update: Latinos.  Latino identity is considered an ethnicity and not a race by the Federal government.  Latino identity is counted by a separate question altogether from racial identity per Federal guidelines.  Thus, when the racial identity question was updated to allow multiple responses, the ethnic identity question was left alone.  Today, you will find the question presented with two options “Latino/Hispanic” or “Non-Latino/Hispanic” or as a “yes/no” question to Latino identity.  You will find no official data on persons that identify with both Latino and non-Latino groups.

It is therefore more pressing to roll-out the expansion of multiple responses to include Latinx of Mixed Ancestry (LOMA) before we begin considering implementation of a multiracial category.  We also need to press that updated standards be implemented quickly rather than wait a decade or more for agencies to catch-up such has been the case with the US Education Department.

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