Tuesday, 19 September 2017

American Races.

As a foreigner, I find the American race debate perplexing.

Mind you, as a foreigner, that's none of my business. If that works for Americans, by all means, carry on. Besides, don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many historical reasons for that (some of them no doubt much better than others), reasons that a foreigner cannot understand.

That said, I cannot help feeling that the effective level of factual information on race Americans demonstrate seems to fall short of the interest on racial matters they manifest. And I'm not talking about esoteric discussions on the science of race, no siree.

Want to see what I'm talking about?

Check the chart below. Let's examine it step by step.

First things first. That data come from the US Census Bureau, corresponding to the 2010 Census. It is, in other words, a reputable and well-known source (I'll withhold the link to where I found that data a little longer).

The dark blue bar to the left is the US total population (approximately 308.75 million people) regardless of any other characteristic: counted in that total are people of all classes, occupations, income/wealth levels, education, religions, genders.

Race is another way to classify those 308.75 million. Deferring to Americans' interest on race, the second, multi-colour bar to the right reports that. It is, in other words, the breakdown of that blue bar according to race and that's why it's as tall as that first bar. (Race data are self-reported: they say how the respondents see themselves. Say, the Census reports 223.55 million white people -- the large green area -- because enough Census respondents assessed themselves -- and their dependents -- as such.)

One can see several things. The second bar (the "race bar") shows 7 categories (5 "races", mixed race, and "others"). For aesthetic reasons the chart shows abbreviations, but here are the exact labels the Bureau employs (roughly from smaller to larger proportions):
  1. Two or More Races
  2. Some Other Race
  3. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  4. Asian
  5. American Indian and Alaska Native
  6. Black or African American
  7. White
Examine that list carefully. Whatever other peculiarities, there's a major demographic missing there, even a foreigner like me can tell. Have you guessed which?

Latinos, Hispanics! Where are they?

Were they just left out? Nope. The Census does study Hispanics and they are already counted in those two bars. Here's the proof:

There are 50.48 million self-reported Hispanics (the orange bit) included in those 308.75 million people. They are nor represented as a race in the "race bar" in the first chart because the Bureau considers Hispanics an ethnic grouping, not a race.

Odd as it may sound to non-Hispanic readers, there are good reasons for that. Examine this chart:

This does for Hispanics and non-Hispanics what the "race bar" did for total in the first chart: it breaks down both categories into their race components. Because there are roughly 5 non-Hispanics for each Hispanic, instead of charting headcounts (as in charts 1 and 2), this third chart displays percentages.

Compare both bars.

I can't speak for the reader, but the first thing to strike me was that big light blue area which is present in the Hispanic bar, but is all but absent in the not-Hispanic one. It corresponds to the "others" category. Non-Hispanics seem to have little difficulty placing themselves within the 5 "race" categories (only 2.3% fell into the "Some Other Race" category); that's not true for 36.7% of all Hispanics. Roughly speaking more than one third of all Hispanics don't see themselves as members of the 5 "race" categories which work so well with non-Hispanics.

Further, Hispanics, too, are more likely than non-Hispanics to see themselves as mixed race: 6%  versus 0.2% (the black area at the top), respectively.

The second thing to strike me is that the majority of Hispanics (53%) see themselves as white (dark blue area at the bottom). Yes, dear non-Hispanic readers, white. Believe it or not.

On the other hand, only 2.5% of Hispanics see themselves as black. Compare that with 14.6% for non-Hispanics.

I might be mistaken, but things may not be as simple as considering that Hispanics are to all intents and purposes equivalent to blacks or to "browns". But I'm just a foreign worker. What do I know?


This is where that data came from. Note the title.


  1. The white nationalist perspective is the one that is of most concern.

    1. Agreed.

      But one finds among the American white nationalists some of the same misconceptions one finds among their American opponents. Although at times that has hilarious consequences (as the link below shows), it does cause me some concern.

      "White Nationalists Are Flocking to Genetic Ancestry Tests, and They're Not Liking What They Find"

    2. Two more for you:

    3. Thanks, Bob.


      Check this out.

      This comes from a recent report on wealth inequality in America[1]:

      According to data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, the median white household possessed $13 in net wealth for every dollar held by the median black household in 2013. That same year, median white households possessed $10 for each dollar held by the median Latino/a household.

      A little later, the same release contains this:

      This report analyzes data on white, black, and Latino households. The terms black and white are used to refer to the representative respondents of a household who identified as non-Latino black or white in the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). Latinos include everyone who identified as Hispanic or Latino and may be of any race.

      The report is about whites, blacks, and Latinos and their different wealth levels. Compare both passages.

      Do you see something there that doesn't seem to fit well?

      [1] http://www.demos.org/publication/asset-value-whiteness-understanding-racial-wealth-gap

    4. According to the SCF pdf, their definition of families includes the following characteristic:

      Race or ethnicity of respondent
      White non-Hispanic
      Nonwhite or Hispanic

      There are only two lines of data in the tables of the SCF report. Hispanics have been lumped in with blacks. However, this is the summary report. There are other reports that include more details, perhaps these are the sources for the three groups used in the report you linked to.

      Ideally, data based on race should come from a census, where it is spelled out how race is defined, and where the respondents are known.

    5. There are three tables towards the end of the report. The rows of those tables are:

      All U.S. Households
      White, Non-Hispanics
      Black/African Americans

      Given that the second row reads "White, Non-Hispanics" I think it's safe to assume that "White, Hispanics" are included within "Hispanics".

      They do seem to be lumping together Hispanics of all "races". According to the Census, half of those Hispanics are likely to be white.


      This does not contradict the fact that non-Latino whites are much wealthier than non-Latino blacks (or Latinos of all races). It doesn't deny, either, that the difference between non-Latino whites and non-Latino blacks is to be explained by historical circumstances: objective social, economic, and political odds are stacked against non-Latino blacks.

      What this contradicts is the idea that only non-whites are victims of those circumstances. There could be at least one category of whites who are also affected: white Hispanics.

    6. What about Asians? They are said to be doing better than whites.

    7. Yep. That's a very good point.

      Although I can't quote any data off the top of my head, my general impression is that, yes, in the US, Asians in aggregate do relatively well.

      That's the same impression I get about Australia, btw. As a side note, the One Nation party was founded some 17 years ago on an anti-Asian platform. I remember their leader, an obnoxious critter called Pauline Hanson, saying at the time that Australia was being "swamped by Asians". Last year or the year before, I don't remember precisely, Hanson was re-elected to Parliament and in her maiden speech she repeated that "swamped" line, but this time Australia was being "swamped by Muslims". There were even some Asian pre-candidates for One Nation!

      I suppose the fact that they are a proportionally small demographic may help explain why Asians are usually left out of the picture. People just don't think about them.

      But sometimes I cannot help but wonder if another reason for that omission is that they don't seem to fit in the general narrative.

    8. Pauline Hanson may be an opportunist. She will change her narrative to keep up with the times.

      Modern Asian stereotypes complement western narratives about meritocracy and hard work. They've gone from being the 'yellow peril' to the staunchest of capitalists.

      Do you consider these types of reports to be credible?

    9. There's no doubt in my mind that that thing is an opportunist.

      But I'm not sure what kind of reports we are talking about.

    10. Reports that use imprecise definitions of race to support its claims, economic or otherwise.

    11. No, I do not think those types of report credible! :-)

    12. Do you think it is possible to have a rational discussion with those who believe we are in the midst of a white genocide?

      Even PCR seems to have succumbed: