What Americans will look like in another 50 years

March 27th, 2009 - 12:30 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama Washington, March 27 (ANI): Whites, including Hispanic whites, are expected to comprise about 70 percent of the American population in 2050, according to a study.

University of Washington demographers say that their study contrasts last year’s mistaken reports that projected whites, as opposed to non-Hispanic whites, to be a minority in the U.S. by 2050.

After analysing 2000 census data, the researchers contended that because of the way the census was structured, many Hispanics or Latinos were eventually lumped into a category called “some other race”.

They said that so many were placed in that category that it was the third-largest group behind whites and blacks in the census, which led to the mistaken reports.

According to the researchers, the way people identify themselves in the United States is changing, and the way the federal census classifies them by race or ethnicity is not painting a clear portrait of America.

“The truth is many people probably can’t accurately report the origins of their ancestors,” said Anthony Perez, lead author of a new study and a UW post-doctoral fellow in sociology and the university’s Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology.

“We have a fair degree of knowledge about where our parents and grandparents came from. But with every generation the number of our ancestors doubles and it is difficult to know the ethnic and racial details of all of them. Many people might have more ethnic or racial groups in their backgrounds than they imagine,” added Perez, whose co-author is Charles Hirschman, a UW professor of sociology and former president of the Population Association of America.

The researchers point out that most Americans, except for recent immigrants, probably descended from multiple geographic, ethnic and racial origins. They say that the U.S. was multi-ethnic and multi-racial from the start.

“With the exception of indigenous people, everyone came from somewhere else. They were immigrants. Frontier societies absorbed many indigenous people and we also have a long history of interracial unions between Americans of European and African descent. It is not just Barack Obama, but most of us are a bunch of ‘mutts’ from different cultures and backgrounds,” said Perez.

He described Americanization as the blending away of the specific ancestries that people brought with them.

He underscored the fact that Americanization generally begins with immigrants coming to the U.S., settling in neighbourhoods with their compatriots, and retaining their ethnic roots.

However, within a generation, the immigrants or their children learn English, intermarry with other Americans of different backgrounds, and their ancestral ties begin to fade.

The researcher further says that with several more generations, most Americans begin to lose track of their increasingly complex family trees.

According to him, this blending has dramatically transformed Native Americans and Hawaiian-Pacific Islanders, most of whom acknowledge multiracial heritage.

At the same time, very few whites and blacks acknowledge common ancestry on censuses and surveys.

“The low levels of racial mixture reported by whites and blacks represent an astounding loss of memory or a reluctance to acknowledge such mixing. One-fifth of African-Americans identified multiracial origins in the 1910 census and researchers think that number probably is low. Yet in Census 2000, just 2 percent of blacks and 0.4 percent of white acknowledge shared ancestry. The blurring of memories over many generations, the stigma of race mixing and a long history of segregation and political polarization have probably contributed to the amnesia of shared ancestry among many white and black Americans,” said Perez.

“Whites are notoriously inconsistent about the specifics of ethnic identity. We don’t put a lot of stock in their answers because they often change their minds on follow-up questions. There also is inconsistency between parents and their children. The majority of whites have multiple ancestries and some will pick theirs on the basis of cuisine, a favorite relative or trends. And who isn’t Irish on St. Patrick’s Day?” he said.

Perez is not sure as to what Americans will look like in another 50 years.

He said: “The future face of America is uncertain. It’s like predicting the weather 50 years from now. If current rates of intermarriage continue, there is likely to be continued blurring of race and ethnic divisions. Even the race and ethnic categories used in the census may change, as they have in the past. For Asians and Hispanics, there is likely to be continued blending, as with previous generations of immigrants.”

He added: “If intermarriage between blacks and whites continues to increase in the coming year, perhaps there will be greater acknowledgement of their shared ancestry. But this will likely depend also on how well we bridge the social and economic gaps between groups.”

The study appears in the journal Population and Development Review. (ANI)

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