TITLE: Who Chooses to Choose Two? Multiracial Identity of Children

AUTHORS: Hans P. Johnson, Laura E. Hill, and Sonya Tafoya

PAGES: 49      DATE: January 2006

ABSTRACT: Prior to the 2000 census, researchers estimated that the size of the multiracial population in the U.S. could range between 3.1 percent and 6.6 percent. However, in the 2000 census many fewer people (2.4 percent) identified as multiracial, and those who did were quite young. Among individuals identified as both black and white, a majority were children; among individuals identified as both Asian and white, almost half were children. Thus, for a large number of multiracial Americans, parents assign racial identity. How do parents choose a multiracial identity for their children? This paper focuses on the children who were most likely to be identified as multiracial and asks the following questions about multiracial identity formation: To what extent do parents of different races identify their children as multiracial? Do patterns of multiracial reporting depend on the specific race of each parent? Are the socioeconomic characteristics of the family relevant? Do characteristics of the community play a role? And finally, might multiracial identity change over the course of childhood? The analysis suggests that a majority of interracial couples do not identify their children as multiracial, but this tendency depends more upon the specific racial identity of the parents than upon the socioeconomic characteristics of the family. Regional differences are notable, with children in the West more likely to be identified as multiracial. Multiracial identities are less common among older children, suggesting that personal experiences and increased racial awareness over time may lead to the adoption of a monoracial identity.

PPIC working papers present work in progress and may not be quoted or cited without permission of the author. Comments or suggestions, however, are welcome.

To order a working paper, please call or email Jennifer Paluch, Policy Research Operations Manager at (415) 291-4416.