Census shows decline in people saying they're of mixed races
March 19, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2011 at 10:19 p.m.
Victorian Jessica Briones doesn't think much about being of mixed race.
Raised by her adoptive Mexican-American parents, Briones, who is half white and half Mexican, considers herself to be Hispanic.
"That's what I grew up as. I was raised in a Mexican environment," said Briones, who was adopted at the age of 3. "I look at myself and see more Mexican."
It was her self-identification as a Mexican-American that led her to write in Hispanic, which is an ethnicity, as her sole race on the 2010 U.S. Census form.
Briones, 31, was one of many people of mixed race - meaning of two or more races - who chose to identify themselves as being of only one race on the latest Census form.
In Victoria County, the number of people who identified themselves as mixed race declined about 57 percent from the 2000 Census.
Meanwhile, mixed-race people in the Crossroads region as a whole declined 65 percent, compared with a nearly 37 percent decline statewide and a 24 percent decline nationwide.
On both the 2000 and 2010 Census forms, respondents were asked to mark an "x" next to one or more races, which included black, white, Asian Indian, Chinese and Samoan.
If respondents did not see a provided race to which they identified, they were also given the option to write in their race in provided spaces.
Despite the decrease in the number of people who identified themselves as mixed race, Nestor Rodriguez, a professor of sociology with the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, said the decline is not drastic.
"In reality, the number of people in the mixed race category is small. It is like five percent, but that is like 15 million," said Rodriguez. "When you have a smaller population, a small change is a big percentage."
While the actual number of people of mixed race on local, state and national levels could have indeed declined, state demographer Lloyd Potter said the more likely explanation for the decreased numbers is that fewer mixed-race people chose to identify themselves as such.
"People's perception of their race changed over the decade," said Potter.
People of mixed race who grow up in a single-parent household or those who grow up in an environment where they were immersed in the culture of one race more so than another can both lead to someone choosing to formally identify with only one race, said Rodriguez.
"They develop to a social situation," he said.
Growing up, Briones said she knew her birth mother's race, but all she knew about her birth father was that he was white with red hair.
When it came to filling out official forms that inquired about her race, including the Census, Briones said she was told to pick the option that she most connected with.
Because her adoptive parents were Mexican-American, Briones said, she grew up with both tangible and intangible connections to their culture.
"There are so many traditions and things to connect to in Mexican culture," said Briones. "It never bothered me that I could not connect with my white side."
For Jodi Yancey, who is biracial, being able to connect with the cultures of both of her parents leads her to self-identify with two races.
Yancey, 35, whose mother is white and whose father is black, has always marked both races on the Census.
"If I just put white, then I'm denying my Dad, and if I just put black, then I'm denying my Mom," said Yancey.
Yancey's decision to formally identify with both races has been the root of some turmoil during her life.
"Even if I admit I'm mixed, there is pressure to relate to one," she said. "Sometimes, in the black community, you are not considered to be black enough because your mom is white, but in the white community, you are not considered to be white because your dad is black."
At the behest of school officials, Briones said she identifies her son and youngest daughter, who are half black, as black on official forms.
"They said you go by what the father was so they identify as black," she said.
Briones and Yancey could not say for sure how their children, who are also of mixed race, would choose to identify themselves on future Census forms, but they continue to be glad for the option to mark multiple races.
"My son asked me, 'Mommy, am I black or Mexican?' said Briones. "I told him you're both. You are Mexican because Mommy is Mexican and you are black because Daddy is black."