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National Academies Press US ; Our picture of racial and ethnic disparities in the health of older Americans is strongly influenced by the methods of collecting data on race and ethnicity.
At one level there is a good deal of consistency in data collection. Most Americans and most researchers have in mind a general categorical scheme that includes whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians.
Most Americans and nearly all researchers are also aware that these general categories disguise significant heterogeneity within each of these major groups. To the extent possible, recent research has attempted to identify and compare subgroups within each of the major racial and ethnic groups, making distinctions by country of origin, nativity, and generation within the United States. Most researchers generally agree that these categories are primarily social constructions that have changed and will continue to change over time.
Once we begin to explore more deeply the ways in which data on the elderly population are collected, however, we discover inconsistency across data sets and time. Part of this variation is from inconsistency in the way that Americans think and talk about race and ethnicity.
Race and ethnicity are words that carry heavy intellectual and political baggage, and issues surrounding racial and ethnic identities are often contested within and across groups. The debate over racial and ethnic categories prior to the Census is one of the most recent, but by no means the only, example of these contests.
Several advocacy groups pressured the Office of Management and Budget OMB to revise its racial and ethnic categories and data collection schemes see Farley, , and Rodriguez, , for discussions of the controversies. This resulted in several significant changes, including the most well-known change, which allowed individuals to choose more than one racial category in the Census. Although most national and many local data collection efforts follow the federal guidelines, they vary in the way in which questions are constructed and in the order in which they appear in the questionnaire or interview schedule.
Such seemingly trivial differences in measurement lead to different distributions of responses about racial and ethnic identity Hirschman, Alba, and Farley, Another inconsistency that has troubled health researchers is the collection of racial and ethnic data using different criteria across data sources.
A good example of this is the mismatch between self-selected race which is used in most data sets and the observer-selected race that is often used for death certificates.
Comparisons between next-of-kin racial identifications and death certificates have shown that a large proportion of, for example, black Hispanics are misidentified on death certificates. This leads to a significant overestimate of their life expectancy because the race-specific mortality rates are inaccurate Swallen and Guend, The purpose of this chapter is to examine the implications of how we measure racial and ethnic identity for our understanding of racial and ethnic disparities in health, especially among the elderly.
We first look at what the social science literature has to say about the ways in which individuals and society construct racial and ethnic identities. Second, we examine how information on race and ethnicity is recorded in some of the major federal data sets used to study health disparities among the elderly.
We then discuss some of the major problems in our national system of collecting and reporting on health disparities. We conclude with some recommendations for achieving greater consistency in the collection and reporting of racial and ethnic information. Over time, academic and popular understandings of racial and ethnic identities have changed dramatically. Prior to the 20th century, racial and ethnic groups were perceived as permanent, biological types.
Scholars of race and ethnicity turned to Biblical passages and, later, theories of natural history to explain the origins of differences among ethnic and racial groups Banton, They concluded that these group differences were natural and immutable. The work of Franz Boas shifted the model describing racial and ethnic differences from one stressing biology to one that focused on cultural differences Cornell and Hartmann, This shift implied that racial and ethnic groups were dynamic rather than static.
These paradigmatic changes influenced the work on race in the emerging Chicago School of Sociology, which led to an assimilationist model of racial and ethnic identities Cornell and Hartmann, In this model, the inherent flexibility of racial and ethnic identities would eventually lead to the assimilation of distinctive racial and ethnic minority groups into the mainstream culture.
However, developments in the middle of the 20th century, such as strengthening ethnic and racial conflicts, forced social scientists to reconsider the question of racial and ethnic identities.
Two paradigms, primordialism and circumstantialism, emerged in the post-assimilationist era Cornell and Hartmann, Those favoring circumstantialism claimed that individuals and groups claim ethnic or racial identities when these identities are in some way advantageous.
As more and more social scientific research investigated racial and ethnic identities, it became clear that neither model was able to fully explain the complexities of these phenomena. The most prevalent current view on racial and ethnic identities is a social constructionist model Banton, ; Cornell and Hartmann, ; Nagel, As views of racial and ethnic identities have changed over time, so have official categories and measurement procedures.
Census has classified people into racial groups since its origin in However, the list of categories and the method of measuring race or ethnicity has changed many times in the intervening decades, as the political and economic forces shaping the collection of racial data have changed.
In early Censuses, enumerators answered the race question based on their perception of the individual. Bureau of the Census, In later years more specific categories for those of mixed African American and white descent, such as mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon, were used Lee, Asian groups have been listed on the form since the late s. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino were the first Asian groups to appear on the Census; later Korean, Vietnamese, Asian Indian, and other Asian groups were added to the list.
American Indians were included as a separate group beginning in The Census question measuring the Hispanic population has also varied over time. Enumerators have used a Spanish surname, the use of the Spanish language in the home, and the birthplace of the respondent or parents to indicate Hispanic ethnicity.
In , racial classification on the Census changed from enumerator identification to self-identification. This change had a relatively minor impact on the count of racial and ethnic groups in compared to However, it created a situation that led to significant changes in counts during subsequent years.
This methodological shift proved to be especially influential for American Indians. During the period between and the end of the 20th century, the size of the American Indian population as measured by the Census increased much more than could be accounted for by migration or births Eschbach, ; Nagel, This increase was because persons whom enumerators had previously identified as being of another race began self-identifying as American Indian and, after , there was increased self-identification as American Indian by those who earlier self-identified or were identified by their parents as being in some other group Nagel, Following the OMB standards, the Census used the five suggested racial categories: A second and even more influential change allowed respondents to choose more than one racial category.
Bureau of the Census conducted several tests—including the Race and Ethnic Targeted Test—to consider the implications of changing the way in which data were collected for the counts of racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Based on these results, Hirschman and colleagues predicted that 1 to 2 percent of whites and blacks in the Census would identify with more than one race and that the numbers of respondents who identified solely as American Indian or Asian would not be significantly different from what one would find if people were constrained to pick only one race.
Their predictions turned out to be correct. In Census , Bureau of the Census, c. Another way to look at these figures, however, is to note that the size of the population reporting two or more races is larger than the American Indian or Pacific Islander populations and about half the size of the Asian population.
Changes in the U. Census categories over time reflect changes in the ways in which Americans think about race and ethnicity as well as political conflicts over these views. Changes in official classifications in turn helped shape the discussion of race and ethnicity in subsequent decades. Within the paradigm of social constructionism, racial and ethnic groups are understood as socially created, rather than biologically given, realities.
Relatively trivial and even overlapping phenotypical differences or group customs are used to categorize groups, and then society proceeds to attach a socially constructed meaning to these differences.
Cornell and Hartmann employ the terms assertion and assignment to illustrate this interaction of forces shaping identities. Nagel , p. Waters demonstrates that white ethnics have a great degree of choice about their ethnic identity. They can choose a particular identity to highlight, and this choice can fluctuate across time and situations.
However, she notes that many members of racial and ethnic minority groups do not have this degree of choice. For these individuals, identity is heavily ascribed by society. These markers can be physical such as skin color, or they can involve surnames or accents.
Changes in a racial or ethnic identity can occur at both the group and individual levels. This, in turn, led to a revised understanding of the American Indian category; it also led many individuals who previously identified as some other race to change their ethnic identity from some other category to American Indian.
In this case, ethnic identity changed at both the group and individual levels. Espiritu outlines the ways in which the meaning of the Asian American category has changed over time and with varying social and political circumstances.
Although all racial and ethnic identities are socially constructed, some categories are more prone to change than others. Waters notes that the ethnic options employed by white Americans are generally not available to African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, or Hispanics. Nagel notes that some racial and ethnic identities appear more rigid than others , p. In the United States, the racial category African American has been a relatively closed and static category. The common identity rule for this group is the rule of hypodescent, under which any amount of black ancestry, no matter how small, makes one African American.
In many cases even those biracial African American and white individuals with a white parent have difficulty claiming a non-black identity Korgen, ; Rockquemore and Brunsma, Another reason for varying levels of change in racial categories over time is the varying extent of racial intermarriage for different groups. Intermarriage, however, has less of an impact on the self-identification of older Americans than on younger Americans. Native Americans have historically had high intermarriage rates, leading to a large group of persons with both white and Native American ancestry.
The intermarriage rates for Asian Americans and Hispanics have been increasing and are now at significant levels.
For all these groups, the most common racial group to intermarry with is white. Therefore, there are significant numbers of persons whose ancestry is partially white and partially Native American, Asian American, or Hispanic.
These individuals are faced with a choice of how to identify racially or ethnically. Many factors can lead to a particular identity choice. In their study of children with one Asian and one non-Asian parent, Xie and Goyette show that factors such as the gender, national ancestry, and language patterns of the Asian parent affect the racial identity of the child.
The race of the non-Asian parent also has an effect. As mentioned, the African American racial category has relatively rigid boundaries in U. Inclusion in the black category is guided by the rule of hypodescent. Davis provides a thorough outline of the ways in which this system of racial categorization evolved in U. Both African Americans and whites have largely accepted this system of racial classification.
Therefore, most persons with African American ancestry have a strong socially imposed identity.
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Hhahhaha cuz I dont know From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about Americans with ancestry from India. Asian immigration to the United States. This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
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For a more comprehensive list, see List of Indian Americans. United States portal India portal Asian Americans portal. Retrieved 16 September A Mosaic of Faiths". A Journal of Transnational Studies. A category that remains contested in population and health research".
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