When it comes to data, some demographic trends are more easily captured than others. The country’s shifting racial and ethnic makeup is perhaps towards the top of this list. The fact that the US is an increasingly multiracial country has been discussed in many forums, such as the Smithsonian, the New York Times, and other news outlets. Last October, National Geographic published an interesting article called “The Changing Face of America” in which the article’s author, Lise Funderburg, and photographer, Martin Schoeller, attempt to put a human face on the country’s increasingly multiracial nature. Funderburg is a lecturer at Rutgers-Camden’s MFA program, where PolicyMap’s own Bernie Langer is currently attending.
While there is no doubt that the multiracial population is growing quickly, this has proven a tough phenomenon to adequately capture with data. One reason for this is that individuals choose to self-identify in different ways. As Funderburg points out, for most multiracial Americans, “identity is a highly nuanced concept, influenced by politics, religion, history, and geography, as well as by how the person believes the answer will be used.” President Obama offers an example of the complexity of self-identification. Since he is the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, it’s notable that he selected the “Black, African Am., or Negro” option on the 2010 Census (as opposed to other options of checking “white” as well, “some other race” or writing in “multiracial”).