As the United States looks toward 2050, when people of color will make up a majority of the country’s residents, the government ischanging its methods of measuring people’s racial and ethnic identities.
The Census Bureau announced yesterday that the next census will be updated to try to more accurately capture this data, adjusting the modernity and inclusiveness of its language. Particularly, it will give new options for Latinos and Middle Easterners.
The newer version of the survey will offer ‘Hispanic’ as a racial, instead of ethnic, option, and will allow for people to write in their race as Middle Eastern or North African. It will also stop using the term “Negro” and will instead give the option of Black/African-American. This change comes from an experiment on the last census — officials distributed differently-worded versions of the survey to see what kind of responses they elicited — and from focus group feedback.
Race will, indeed, become more complicated with the country’s shifting demographics. Recently, we reached the threshold where fewer than half of the babies born in the United States every year are white. In fact, the last census showed a huge jump in the number of interracial children — and that will rise as those children grow up and have their own families.
As that happens, the census categories will become less and less clear. People will move from checking one box to two, or three. Eventually, the labels will need to be reassessed again. For now, any changes in labels will help reflect our changing society.