The Sciences

America: as if it is 1970

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApr 27, 2012 3:19 AM

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I noticed that The Washington Post had an article up, Number of biracial babies soars over past decade, based on 2010 Census data. I was immediately curious if my expectations were correct in this case, because the term "biracial" has a very specific connotation. That is,

there are two races, and in America that is black and white.

If you want to break out of this old dichotomy you usually say multiracial. This paradigm has a historical valence, because the "race issue" in America has traditionally been in black and white, with a minor secondary role for native populations. I say traditionally, because by any measure the minority of America's minorities are now black. And sure enough the article does focus on the black-white dimension, with honorable mention for a woman of Asian heritage. But it is notionally based on the Census, right? It was easy to find the press release on the Census website. Here is the table accompanying it:

Even excluding white Hispanic/white non-Hispanic pairings, it is clear that the traditional "mixed marriage" between a black and white Anglo American is now the minority of interracial marriages. But the media is determined to continue pressing ahead with the tried & true narrative, which dates back two generations, and has roots in an America before the 1965 liberalization of immigration. Generally when I see write-ups of statistical results, I immediately go to the original source. The fact is that the media is liable to simply shade and color the results to suit their own pat narrative. That's just human nature. But in an age when newspapers are complaining about a collapse of their business model, I often have a hard time having much sympathy when this is the quality and character of their "value-added" analysis.

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