'Multiracial' a youthful category

The Associated PressApril 9, 2002 

WASHINGTON -- The 2000 Census, the first to give Americans the option of checking off more than one race, hints at greater diversity in the future.

Teenagers and children make up a significant share of the country's multiracial population, 2000 Census results show, pointing toward a trend of growing diversity in coming decades.

In at least 10 states, the percentage of multiracial residents who are of school age -- between 5 and 17 -- is at least 25 percent.

That percentage is higher than for Americans as a whole, regardless of racial background -- nationally, 19 percent are school age.

Society grew more accepting of interracial relationships and families during the 1990s, said Dowell Myers, professor of urban demography at the University of Southern California. The 2000 Census itself was the first to give people the option of checking off more than one race.

As multiracial youths grow older and start their own families, expect the racial portrait of America to become even more complex, Myers said.

The figures are the first detailed age breakdowns by race and ethnicity from the 2000 Census. They are part of the latest state-by-state release of detailed data covering topics asked on all Census forms.

Nationally, just over 2 percent, or 6.8 million of the country's 281 million people, identified with more than one race. Of the 6.8 million, 42 percent, or about 2.9 million, were under 18.

More specific national breakdowns by age and race -- such as how many children across the country are multiracial and school-age -- will not be available until August.

But a look at state data released so far offers some clues:

  • As expected, multiracial families tend to live more in urban centers. For instance, 30 percent of all Indiana residents lived in a central city, compared with 45 percent of multiracial residents in the state.

  • Of Nebraska's 1.7 million residents, about 19 percent were between age 5 and 17 in 2000. But of the 24,000 in Nebraska who chose two or more races, 34 percent were school age.

  • The median age of all Boston residents was 31.1; the median age of multiracial residents in Boston was 27.1.

  • Illinois had one of the largest multiracial populations in the country at just over 235,000, with 15 percent under age 5. By comparison, about 12 percent of the state's Hispanics were that young, and 6 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

    "Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, not a race; therefore, people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.

    The 1990 Census allowed Americans to choose only one of five race categories. The 2000 count was the first to let people choose more than one category, increasing the number of race classifications to 63.

    What multiracial Americans today take away from the historic new reporting of their population will affect what trends emerge in the 2010 Census. For instance, how will children identified by their parents today as multiracial classify themselves in the next head count?

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