For the first time in a decade, the Census Bureau captured the most comprehensive look at who lives in America. The multiracial population has changed a great deal from 9 million people in the 2010 Census, skyrocketing by 276% to 33.8 million people in the 2020 Census. From the rise of interest in ancestry–thanks to DNA services such as 23andMe–to the growing number of interracial marriages, this uptick came as no surprise to the Census Bureau. But to everyday Americans, this rise made our identities feel seen. As America tries to be a more inclusive and equitable melting pot, now more than ever, a path for a new American culture is beginning to be paved.
The uptick in the multiracial category came from the Census Bureau realizing the complexity of the country’s population. The 2000 Census was the first year that Americans were given the choice of marking all race categories with which they identified, resulting in the first decennial counts of multiracial persons. By providing space for Multiracial Americans to identify themselves beyond a single checkbox fully, the Census Bureau collected and analyzed more detailed data in the coming years.
Between the 2000 and 2010 Census data, there was an examination of changes in specific race combination groups. People who identified as White and Black or African American (increasing by 134% during that decade) and people who identified as White and Asian (rising by 87% that decade) have grown tremendously since the 2000 Census. This growth catalyzed the significant changes in numbers among people who would identify as more than one race in the following decade. Spanning beyond the spectrum of skin tone, cultures, and traditions, while still perplexed by the challenges that come from being at the intersection of two or more races, a more diverse survey finally addresses the question, “So what are you?”