(March 2000) The big news from Census 2000 is out: The Hispanic population gained about 13 million people since 1990, a 58 percent increase, and is now roughly equal to the black population. Several factors have been cited in the dramatic growth of the Hispanic population, including the influx of immigrants (especially from Mexico), relatively high Hispanic fertility levels, special efforts by the Census Bureau to count undocumented migrants, and changes in the 2000 census questionnaire. (In 2000, the question on Hispanic origin was moved to a more user-friendly location, preceding the race question.)

But other stories about America’s diversity — many so complex that the experts are still puzzling over them — are on the way. Results from the Census Bureau’s Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (ACE) Survey show that the actual number of Hispanics in the United States could be even higher than the 35.3 million counted in the direct enumeration. ACE results show a 2.85 percent national undercount rate for the Hispanic population. This would add another 1 million Hispanics to the national count, bringing the total to 36.3 million. However, the Census Bureau has recommended not using these adjusted data because of concerns about their accuracy at the local level.

The 2000 census was the first that allowed people to mark more than one race. The Census Bureau added this option because of increasing rates of interracial marriage and the growing population that identifies with more than one race, especially among children and minorities. Of the 281.4 million people counted in the census, about 6.8 million (2.4 percent) identified with two or more races. About 4 percent of children were identified as multiracial, compared with 2 percent of adults. The most common multiracial combinations in the 2000 census were white and American Indian and Alaska Native (1 million), white and Asian (868,000), white and black (785,000), and black and American Indian and Alaska Native (182,000). The multiracial population also included 3.2 million people — primarily Hispanic respondents — who reported “some other race” in combination with one or more other races. These respondents often use the “some other race” designation to express their nationalities — for example, Mexican or Salvadoran or Nicaraguan — which for them have more meaning than the category “Hispanic.”

The new options for answering the race question on the census form have made it difficult to determine the exact size of racial groups and to look at trends over time, especially for groups with high rates of intermarriage. For example, the size of the American Indian and Alaska Native population could be as low as 2.5 million or as high as 4.1 million, depending on how the multiracial American Indian population is classified. It is also a challenge to measure the growth or decline of racial groups since 1990. Using the single-race definition, the American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 26 percent, but under the alternative definition, which combines single-race and multiracial American Indian groups, the population grew by 110 percent.

Tiger Woods and the 10,671 Other Cablinasians

After his 1997 Masters Tournament win, Tiger Woods coined the term “Cablinasian” to describe his white, black, Thai, Chinese, and American Indian heritage. The 2000 census was the first that allowed people like Tiger to select multiple races, and results show that he is not alone. There were 10,672 people who reported a combination of white, black, Asian, and American Indian races. This may sound like a sizeable group, but it is only a small fraction (0.2 percent) of the total people who marked more than one race (6.8 million). And in the United States as a whole, only one person in every 26,370 reported this rare combination.


Mark Mather is a policy analyst at the Population Reference Bureau.