Written by Amalia Tsiongas
According to the U.S. Census, Americans fit neatly into the following categories: White, Black Asian / Pacific Islander, American Indian / Alaska Native, Hispanic, or Two or More Races.
The U.S. Census recently released an updated list of the most common surnames in the United States, accompanied by information about how Americans reported their ethnicities, within the framework above. It’s a veritable treasure trove of data for researchers – like those at Ethnic Technologies – who concern themselves with the role names play in ethnic identity.
However, deciphering the data is a lot less straightforward than it seems. What, if anything, can a name researcher understand from the category of “two or more races”?
Sometimes “two or more races” represents individuals from a mixed marriage, or whose family members originated from different parts of the world, speak different languages, and follow different cultural traditions – for example, someone who identifies as BOTH White AND Black.
Other times, however, “two or more races” actually represents specific ethnic groups, entire communities who feel they don’t fit neatly into any of the other options. Who are they?
• Mixed-Race Ethnicities - Distinct cultural identities created when separate populations mixed over the course of generations.
o Black African and Arab populations in the Eastern African country of Ethiopia
o European and Asian populations in Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan
• Minority Groups - Distinct cultural identities shaped by both the dominant culture of a country and the status of ethnic minority
o Assyrian Christians from Iraq
o Circassians from Turkey
• Colonized Peoples – Peoples who experienced pressure to identify with the former ruling class following a history of colonialism:
o Haitians, Caribbean islanders colonized by France
o Filipinos, Pacific islanders ruled at different times by Spain and the U.S.
There has never been more demographic data available to the public than there is now. However, it often requires the careful analysis of experts – like the team at Ethnic Technologies – to interpret this raw data into actionable insights for multicultural marketers and others looking to more deeply understand how Americans see themselves.