Conceptualizing and operationalizing American Indian populations is challenging. Each census for decades has seen the American Indian population increase substantially more than expected, with indirect and qualitative evidence that this is due to changes in individuals’ race responses. We apply uniquely suited (but not nationally representative) linked data from the 2000 and 2010 decennial censuses (N = 3.1 million) and the 2006–2010 American Community Survey (N = 188,131) to address three research questions. First, to what extent do American Indian people have different race responses across data sources? We find considerable race response change, especially among multiple-race and/or Hispanic American Indians. Second, how are people who change responses different from or similar to those who do not? We find three sets of American Indians: those who (1) had the same race and Hispanic responses in 2000 and 2010, (2) moved between single-race and multiple-race American Indian responses, and (3) added or dropped the American Indian response, thus joining or leaving the enumerated American Indian population. People in groups (1) and (2) were relatively likely to report a tribe, live in an American Indian area, report American Indian ancestry, and live in the West. Third, how are people who join a group different from or similar to those who leave it? Multivariate models show general similarity between joiners and leavers in group (1) and in group (2). Population turnover is hidden in cross-sectional comparisons; people joining each subpopulation of American Indians are similar in number and characteristics to those who leave it.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
We use “American Indian” to describe a person who reported “American Indian or Alaska Native” (AIAN) in the race question on the census form. Unless specified, we are referencing the entire group regardless of whether other races were also reported and regardless of Hispanic origins. Our study includes those reported as American Indian in the race question in the 2000 and/or the 2010 census. We do not assume that they always have or always will report American Indian (or be reported as this). We use the person’s time-specific race response to describe him/her. For instance, if someone reported American Indian in 2000 and white in 2010, we refer to him/her as non–American Indian in 2010.
We use “racial identification” and “race response” to mean the response given on the decennial census form. This is not necessarily the same as a person’s racial identity, although they are probably related.
We apply the terms “race” and “Hispanic origin” in congruence with the federal statistical definitions used to collect the data (Office of Management and Budget 1997). Each questionnaire used here included one question about Hispanic origin (one response allowed) and one question about race (multiple responses invited).
Responses might not be self-reports, although we simplify our prose by writing as though they are self-reports. Using case selection, we ensure that these are self-reports or reports by someone else in the household (probably the householder or his/her spouse; Sweet 1994), although enumerators visited some homes and could influence responses.
Many Latin American countries recently legally recognized indigenous groups (Telles and Bailey 2013). There are about 400 indigenous groups in Latin America and the Caribbean (Montenegro and Stephens 2006), and more than 40 million of 500 million Latin Americans self-identify as indigenous (Telles and Bailey 2013). Many are bound to their indigenous heritage through language and political, social, and cultural ties (Gonzalez 1994; Montenegro and Stephens 2006). Although some live on (often remote) tribal lands or rural areas, an increasing share live in urban areas (Dahl and Jensen 2002; Del Popolo et al. 2007; Roldán Ortiga 2004). As a whole, they are relatively poor and have worse social and health outcomes (Kearney 2000; Psacharopoulos and Patrinos 1994).
Among American Indians whose only reported tribe was from South or Central America, 86 % reported Hispanic in the 2000 census, and 94 % did so in the 2010 census.
People who listed a tribe anywhere in the race question were coded as American Indian race in post-enumeration processing. Of 244,761 people reporting a Central or South American tribe in the 2010 census, only 38 % marked the “American Indian or Alaska Native” check box. Of the 3,195,538 who reported a North American tribe, 84 % marked the box. Our linked decennial sample has higher proportions who marked the check box: 46 % and 98 %, respectively.
The federal definition of American Indian or Alaska Native is “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment” (Office of Management and Budget 1997:58,789).
Foreign-born individuals who have gone through the citizenship process have had considerable experience with the U.S. system and may have substantial understanding of U.S. social practices.
Relatedly, socioeconomic privilege could make a race response change from white to minority seem especially costless because the person is buffered from the harshest costs of color.
An estimated 1 % of links were to the wrong person (Layne et al. 2014).
The decennial data has not been through data perturbation. We ensure disclosure avoidance using disclosure review. The ACS data has undergone data perturbation, causing some response mismatch between the decennial and ACS data points.
We do not use ACS weights. Because they account for factors such as survey nonresponse and sampling strategies but do not adjust for record linkage and case selection, they would not make the data representative.
Alternate versions of all multivariate models with fewer independent variables but including people of all ages are available on request. Also, descriptive statistics for only people ages 25 and older are available on request.
A total of 1,365,025 people in our decennial linked data reported non-Hispanic, single-race American Indian in 2000 or 2010 (=1,045,627 + 1,042,724 – 723,326). Of these, 723,326 gave the same report both times. Thus, 723,326 / 1,365,025 = 53 % of people in S1 were stayers.
Stayers represented 13 % of the people in S2, 11 % of those in S3, 9 % of those in S4.
A small proportion of ACS race response changes may be due to data perturbation and not the respondent.
People in rows 1–8 and 21–24 (American Indian in both censuses) can have a recorded “enrolled or principal tribe” in 2000 and/or in 2010, while those in rows 9–20 (American Indian in one census) can have a recorded tribe in only one census. We code any write-in response as a “tribe report.”
Relative risks (exp(β)) that are below 1.0 show a negative relationship. For example, in Table 5, those who were never married were significantly less likely to leave S1 than they were to stay in this subgroup (exp(β) = 0.75). Relative risks above 1.0 show the opposite: people who did not report a tribe in either census were more than five times as likely (exp(β) = 5.63) to be S1 leavers than to be S1 stayers.
Bates, N. (2008). 2010 Census AIAN audience segmentation and evaluation (2010 Census Integrated Communications Research Memoranda Series No. 6). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/2010census/partners/pdf/C2POMemoNo6.pdf
Bond, B., Brown, J. D., Luque, A., & O’Hara, A. (2014). The nature of bias when studying only linkable person records: Evidence from the American Community Survey (Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications Working Paper #2014-08). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Campbell, M. E., & Troyer, L. (2007). The implications of racial misclassification by observers. American Sociological Review, 72, 750–765.
Chun, A. Y., & Gan, J. (2014). Analysis of the source of group quarters enumeration data in the 2010 census. Paper presented at the 2014 American Statistical Association's Joint Statistical Meetings: Survey research methods session, Alexandria, VA.
Compton, E., Bentley, M., Ennis, S., & Rastogi, S. (2012). 2010 census race and Hispanic origin alternative questionnaire experiment (DSSD 2010 CPEX Memorandum Series #B-05-R, 2010 Census Planning Memoranda Series #211). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Scribner’s Sons.
Cornell, S., & Hartmann, D. (2007). Ethnicity and race: Making identities in a changing world (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Dahl, J., & Jensen, M. (2002). Pueblos indigenas y urbanizacion [Indigenous peoples and urbanization]. Asuntos Indigenas: Pueblos Indigenas y Urbanizacion, 3(4/02), 4–7.
Davis, F. J. (2005). Who is black? One nation’s definition (10th Anniversary ed.). University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
del Pinal, J., & Schmidley, D. (2005). Matched race and Hispanic origin responses from census 2000 and Current Population Survey February to May 2000 (Population Division Working Paper No. 79). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Del Popolo, F., Oyarce, A. M., Ribotta, B., & Rodriguez, J. (2007). Indigenous peoples and urban settlements: Spatial distribution, internal migration and living conditions. Santiago, Chile: Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE) Population Division.
Doyle, J. M., & Kao, G. (2007). Are racial identities of multiracials stable? Changing self-identification among single and multiple race individuals. Social Psychology Quarterly, 70, 405–423.
Dusch, G., & Meier, F. (2012). 2010 Census Content Reinterview Survey evaluation report (2010 Census Program for Evaluations and Experiments). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York, NY: Norton & Co.
Eschbach, K. (1993). Changing identification among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Demography, 30, 635–652.
Eschbach, K. (1995). The enduring and vanishing American Indian: American Indian population growth and intermarriage in 1990. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 18, 89–108.
Eschbach, K., Supple, K., & Snipp, C. M. (1998). Changes in racial identification and the educational attainment of American Indians, 1970–1990. Demography, 35, 35–43.
Espey, D. K., Jim, M. A., Richards, T. B., Begay, C., Haverkamp, D., & Roberts, D. (2014). Methods for improving the quality and completeness of mortality data for American Indians and Alaska Natives. American Journal of Public Health, 104(S3), S286–S294.
Fellegi, I. P., & Sunter, A. B. (1969). A theory for record linkage. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 64, 1183–1210.
Fitzgerald, K. (2007). Beyond white ethnicity: Developing a sociological understanding of Native American identity reclamation. New York, NY: Lexington Books.
Gans, H. (1979). Symbolic ethnicity: The future of ethnic groups and cultures in America. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2, 1–20.
Glick, J. E., & Han, S. Y. (2015). Socioeconomic stratification from within: Changes within American Indian cohorts in the United States: 1990–2010. Population Research and Policy Review, 34, 77–112.
Gonzalez, M. L. (1994). How many indigenous people? In G. Psacharopoulous & H. A. Patrinos (Eds.), Indigenous people and poverty in Latin America: An empirical analysis (pp. 21–39). Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Grieco, E., & Cassidy, R. (2001). Overview of race and Hispanic origin (Census 2000 Brief No. C2KBR/01-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Guimond, E., Robitaille, N., & Senécal, S. (2014). Another look at definitions and growth of Aboriginal populations in Canada. In F. Trovato & A. Romaniuk (Eds.), Aboriginal populations: Social, demographic, and epidemiological perspectives (pp. 97–118). Alberta, Canada: University of Alberta Press.
Gullickson, A., & Morning, A. (2011). Choosing race: Multiracial ancestry and identification. Social Science Research, 40, 498–512.
Harris, D. (1994). The 1990 census count of American Indians: What do the numbers really mean? Social Science Quarterly, 75, 580–593.
Harris, D., & Sim, J. J. (2002). Who is multiracial? Assessing the complexity of lived race. American Sociological Review, 67, 614–627.
Hitlin, S., Brown, J. S., & Elder, G. H., Jr. (2006). Racial self-categorization in adolescence: Multiracial development and social pathways. Child Development, 77, 1298–1308.
Hout, M., & Goldstein, J. (1994). How 4.5 million Irish immigrants became 40 million Irish Americans: Demographic and subjective aspects of the ethnic composition of white Americans. American Sociological Review, 59, 64–82.
Humes, K., & Hogan, H. (2009). Measurement of race and ethnicity in a changing, multicultural America. Race and Social Problems, 1, 111–131.
Humes, K., & Hogan, H. (2015). Do current race and ethnicity concepts reflect a changing America? In R. Bangs & L. E. Davis (Eds.), Race and social problems: Restructuring inequality (pp. 15–38). New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media.
Humes, K., Jones, N., & Ramirez, R. (2011). Overview of race and Hispanic origin: 2010 (2010 Census Brief No. C2010BR-02). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Jacobs, M. R. (2015). Urban American Indian identity: Negotiating Indianness in northeast Ohio. Qualitative Sociology, 38, 79–98.
Kana’iaupuni, S., & Liebler, C. A. (2005). Pondering poi dog: The importance of place to the racial identification of mixed‐race Native Hawaiians. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28, 687–721.
Kearney, M. (2000). Transnational Oaxacan indigenous identity: The case of Mixtecs and Zapotecs. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 7, 173–195.
Khanna, N., & Johnson, C. (2010). Passing as black: Racial identity work among biracial Americans. Social Psychology Quarterly, 73, 380–397.
Kukutai, T., & Didham, R. (2009). In search of ethnic New Zealanders: National naming in the 2006 census. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 36, 46–62.
Layne, M., Wagner, D., & Rothhaas, C. (2014). Estimating record linkage false match rate for the Person Identification Validation System (Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications Working Paper 2014–02). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Lieberson, S., & Waters, M. (1993). The ethnic responses of whites: What causes their instability, simplification, and inconsistency? Social Forces, 72, 421–450.
Liebler, C. A. (2001). Fringes of American Indian identity (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI.
Liebler, C. A. (2010a). A group in flux: Multiracial American Indians and the social construction of race. In K. O. Korgen (Ed.), Multiracial Americans and social class (pp. 131–144). New York, NY: Routledge Press.
Liebler, C. A. (2010b). Homelands and indigenous identities in a multiracial era. Social Science Research, 39, 596–609.
Liebler, C. A., & Ortyl, T. (2014). More than one million new American Indians in 2000: Who are they? Demography, 51, 1101–1130.
Liebler, C. A., Rastogi, S., Fernandez, L. E., Noon, J. M., & Ennis, S. R. (2014). America’s churning races: Race and ethnic response changes between census 2000 and the 2010 census (Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications Working Paper No. 2014–09). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Liebler, C. A., & Zacher, M. (2012). American Indians without tribes in the twenty-first century. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36, 1910–1934.
Loveman, M., & Muniz, J. O. (2007). How Puerto Rico became white: Boundary dynamics and intercensus racial reclassification. American Sociological Review, 72, 915–939.
Lujan, C. C. (2014). American Indians and Alaska Natives count: The U.S. Census Bureau’s efforts to enumerate the Native population. American Indian Quarterly, 38, 319–341.
Memmott, P., & Long, S. (2002). Place theory and place maintenance in indigenous Australia. Urban Policy and Research, 20, 39–56.
Miller, M. (2004). Rise and fall of the cosmic race: The cult of mestizaje in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Montenegro, R. A., & Stephens, C. (2006). Indigenous health in Latin America and the Caribbean. Lancet, 367, 1859–1869.
Mule, T. (2012). Census coverage measurement estimation report: Summary of estimates of coverage of persons in the United States (DSSD 2010 Census Coverage Measurement Memorandum Series #2010-G-01). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Nagel, J. (1996). American Indian ethnic renewal: Red power and the resurgence of identity and culture. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Office of Management and Budget. (1997). Revisions to the standards for the classification of federal data on race and ethnicity. Federal Register, 62, 58781–58790.
Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Passel, J. (1976). Provisional evaluation of the 1970 census count of American Indians. Demography, 13, 397–409.
Passel, J. (1997). The growing American Indian population, 1960–1990: Beyond demography. Population Research and Policy Review, 16, 11–31.
Passel, J., & Berman, P. (1986). Quality of 1980 census data for American Indians. Social Biology, 33, 163–182.
Perez, A., & Hirschman, C. (2009). Estimating net interracial mobility in the United States: A residual methods approach. Sociological Methodology, 39, 31–71.
Porter, S. R., Liebler, C. A., & Noon, J. M. (2015). An outside view: What observers say about others’ races and Hispanic origins. American Behavioral Scientist. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0002764215613397
Prewitt, K. (2013). What is your race? The census and our flawed efforts to classify Americans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Psacharopoulos, G., & Patrinos, H. A. (1994). Indigenous people and poverty in Latin America: An empirical analysis. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Rastogi, S., Fernandez, L. E., Noon, J. M., Zapata, E., & Bhaskar, R. (2014). Exploring administrative records use for race and Hispanic origin item non-response. Paper presented at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Conference of European Statisticians: Work Session on Statistical Data Editing, Paris, France. Retrieved from http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/stats/documents/ece/ces/ge.44/2014/mtg1/Topic_4_USA_Rastogi_rev1.pdf
Rastogi, S., & O’Hara, A. (2012). 2010 census match study (2010 Planning Memoranda Series No. 247). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Ríos, M., Romero, F., & Ramirez, R. (2014). Race reporting among Hispanics: 2010 (Population Division Working Paper No. 102). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Robertson, D. (2013). A necessary evil: Framing an American Indian legal identity. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 37(4), 115–139.
Rockquemore, K., & Brunsma, D. (2002). Socially embedded identities: Theories, typologies, and processes of racial identity among black/white biracials. Sociological Quarterly, 43, 335–356.
Rockquemore, K., & Brunsma, D. (2008). Beyond black: Biracial identity in America (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Roldán Ortiga, R. (2004). Models for recognizing indigenous land rights in Latin America (Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 99). Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank.
Root, M. P. P. (1996). The multiracial experience: Racial borders as the new frontier. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ruggles, S., Alexander, J. T., Genadek, K., Goeken, R., Schroeder, M. B., and Sobek, M. (2010). Integrated public use microdata series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Seelye, K. Q. (2012). The caucus; Warren says she told schools of Indian ancestry. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DEEDE1F3EF932A35755C0A9649D8B63
Shoemaker, N. (1999). American Indian population recovery in the twentieth century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Singer, P., & Ennis, S. (2003). Census 2000 Content Reinterview Survey: Accuracy of data for selected population and housing characteristics as measured by reinterview (Census 2000 Evaluation B.5). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Snipp, C. M. (1989). American Indians: The first of this land. New York, NY: Russell Sage.
Snipp, C. M. (1997). Some observations about racial boundaries and the experiences of American Indians. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 20, 668–689.
Snipp, C. M. (2003). Racial measurement in the American Census: Past practices and implications for the future. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 563–588.
Song, M. (2003). Choosing ethnic identity. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Sturm, C. (2011). Becoming Indian: The struggle over Cherokee identity in the twenty-first century. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.
Sweet, E. (1994). Who fills out the census questionnaire study (1990 DSSD REX Memorandum Series #PP-9). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Telles, E., & Bailey, S. (2013). Understanding Latin American beliefs about racial inequality. American Journal of Sociology, 118, 1559–1595.
Thornton, R. (1987). American Indian holocaust and survival: A population history since 1492. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
U.S. Census Bureau (1894). Indians taxed and Indians not taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the eleventh census: 1890. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
U.S. Census Bureau (1993). Content Reinterview Survey: Accuracy of data for selected population and housing characteristics as measured by reinterview (1990 Census of Population and Housing Evaluation and Research Reports #1990 CPH-E-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. Census Bureau. (1994). American Indian and Alaska Native areas. In Geographic areas reference manual (pp. 5-1–5-18). Retrieved from http://www2.census.gov/geo/pdfs/reference/GARM/Ch5GARM.pdf. Accessed 17 Feb 2016.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2003). Technical assessment of A.C.E Revision II. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/ACETechAssess.pdf
U.S. Census Bureau (2007). 2000 Census of population and housing technical documentation (Summary File No. SF1/14). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). 2007 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal consultations (2010 American Indian and Alaska Native Program, Final report). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/aian/pdf/CensusFinalReport_07_color-hi_res.pdf
Wagner, D., & Layne, M. (2014). The Person Identification Validation System (PVS): Applying the Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications’ (CARRA) record linkage software (Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications Working Paper No. 2014–01). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Wang, W. (2012). The rise of intermarriage: Rates, characteristics vary by race and gender. Washington, DC: Pew Social & Demographic Trends.
Waters, M. (1990). Ethnic options: Choosing identities in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wimmer, A. (2008). The making and unmaking of ethnic boundaries: A multilevel process theory. American Journal of Sociology, 113, 970–1022.
Xie, Y., & Goyette, K. (1997). The racial identification of biracial children with one Asian parent: Evidence from the 1990 census. Social Forces, 76, 547–570.
This article is released to inform interested parties of research and to encourage discussion. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the U.S. Census Bureau. At various stages of this research, we have benefited from thoughtful comments from many people, including C. Matthew Snipp, Amy O’Hara, James Noon, Leticia Fernandez, Sharon Ennis, Julia Rivera Drew, Catherine Fitch, Liying Luo, Caren Arbeit, Susan Mason, J. Trent Alexander, Jenifer Bratter, and Mary Campbell. We also thank the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Workshop and the Inequality and Methods Workshop, both at the University of Minnesota, for sponsoring helpful discussions of this research. The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center provided important support for the first author through programs made possible by an NIH Center Grant (R24HD041023).
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
(PDF 37.0 kb)
About this article
Cite this article
Liebler, C.A., Bhaskar, R. & Porter (née Rastogi), S.R. Joining, Leaving, and Staying in the American Indian/Alaska Native Race Category Between 2000 and 2010. Demography 53, 507–540 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0461-2
- American Indian
- Racial identification
- Error of closure
- Linked data