Racial Residential Segregation Measurement Project

U of M

    The Races Used in the Measurement of Residential Segregation

The Races Used in the Measurement of Residential Segregation


            The United States began gathering racial data in the Census of 1790.  Until 2000, every census assumed that all persons had one and only one racial identity.  An effective lobbying effort in the 1990s challenged that idea.  The government’s Office of Management and the Budget, in 1997, decreed that all Americans should be able to identify with more than one race if they wished to do so.


            Persons enumerated in 2000 could identify with any or all of the following major races:


            Black, African-American, or Negro

            American Indian or Alaska Native


            Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

            Some Other Race


            As a result of this new approach, Census 2000 provides information for 6 single races and for 57 combinations of 2 to 6 races.  Overall, 97.6 percent of Americans identified with just one of the 6 major races, but 2.3 percent identified with two.  Only 1 in 1,000 identified with three or more races.  Just before answering the race questions, all respondents in the Census of 2000 answered a question about whether their origin was Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.


            For each state, metropolitan area and city, it would be possible to measure the residential segregation of 6 single races and 57 multiple races.  If persons were classified by Hispanic origin, there would be 126 groups to consider.  Doing so would provide hundreds or thousands of segregation indexes – too many for anyone to interpret.  The Census Bureau’s major document about the reporting of race is available at www.census.gov/prod/01pubs/c2kbr01-1.pdf


            To keep the measurement of segregation clear and understandable, we considered the Hispanic population, then non-Hispanics in the four largest single race groups and the three largest combinations of two races.  That is, we distinguished Hispanics first and then classified non-Hispanics by their race.  We describe the residential segregation in 2000 of the following groups:



Races Considered in this Project


Population in 2000


Percent of Total











Single-Race Individuals

Non-Hispanic Whites





Non Hispanic Blacks





Non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives





Non-Hispanic Asians










Persons Identifying with Two Races

Non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks





Non-Hispanic Whites and Asians





Non-Hispanic Whites and American Indians






            The eight groups whose segregation is measured account for 98.9 percent of the total population in 2000.  This analysis does not measure the segregation of the small Pacific Islander race or the segregation of combinations other then the three listed above. 


            If a person identified with one race and then wrote a Spanish or Hispanic term for their second race, the Census Bureau counted them as identifying with two races.  Approximately one-third of the 2.4 percent of the population identifying with two races were multiple in race because they wrote a Spanish term for their “Other Race.”  In this analysis, these people are included with the Hispanic population.



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