The term biracial refers to a person with parents of two different races. The 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision that invalidated laws forbidding inter-racial marriage, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the opening up of Asian and Latin American immigration in 1965 all contributed to an increase in inter-racial unions and biracial offspring. In the U.S. Census 2000, when people were given the opportunity to identify with more than one race for the first time, 2.4 percent of all Americans did so. The Census 2000 finding that 4 percent of Americans under 18 are biracial (compared with 2.4 percent of all Americans) is an indication of the relative youth of biracial Americans.
Increasingly, the word multiracial is replacing the term biracial. However, 93 percent of people who checked off more than one race on the 2000 census checked off only two races. It is also important to remember that the U.S. Census considers Hispanic/ Latino an ethnic, rather than a racial, category. So, Latino/a Americans listed as “more than one race” checked off “Hispanic or Latino” and two or more racial groups. Most biracial Americans have a white parent because two thirds of Americans are non-Hispanic whites and, therefore, most inter-racial unions consist of a white person and a person of color. However, as a group, white people are least likely to marry outside of their racial group and have biracial offspring.
Most biracial Americans live in states with relatively high levels of diversity and metropolitan centers. According to the 2000 census, 40 percent of biracial persons reside in the West, 27 percent in the South, 18 percent in the Northeast, and 15 percent in the Midwest. Hawaii has the most multiracial persons, with 21 percent. In descending order, the other states with above-average biracial populations are Alaska, California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas. Each of these states has a biracial population greater than the 2.4 percent national average.
The literature on biracial Americans was primarily negative before the post-civil rights era “biracial baby boom,” focusing on problems biracial Americans might have fitting into a monoracial society. However, recent social science research and popular writing on the topic of biracial Americans provide a much more positive view. Most of today’s published work on biracial Americans stresses their ability to bridge racial divides and see both sides of racial issues. The popularity of biracial stars like Mariah Carey and the “Cablinasian” Tiger Woods has also done much to promote the benefits of a mixed-race background. As their numbers and presence grow, more and more biracial Americans are questioning the traditional racial hierarchy in the United States and embracing all sides of their racial heritage.
- Jones, Nicholas A. and Amy Symens Smith. 2001. The Two or More Races Population: 2000. Census 2000 Brief No. C2KBR/01-6. Retrieved March 29, 2017 (https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-6.pdf).
- Lee, Sharon M. and Barry Edmonston. 2005. “New Marriages, New Families: U.S. Racial and Hispanic Intermarriage.” Population Bulletin 60(2). Retrieved March 29, 2017 (https://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/politics/bib/newmarriages05.pdf).
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