Multiracial Americans - one of the nation's most dynamic groups -
pose a growing challenge to traditional notions about racial
They're adding new hues to the complexion of America. They're
blurring distinctions among black and white, Asian and native
American - which may one day help erase racism in the United
But much remains to be known about them. Even simple questions
like, "How many multiracial Americans are there?" are proving
New state figures from the Census Bureau, however, offer some
clues about this group, which includes golfer Tiger Woods and
singers Paula Abdul and Mariah Carey. According to the data
released so far, multiracial Americans are young, tend to live in
cities in the West, and come from a wide variety of communities:
from military bases to college towns to blue-collar, industrial
Officially, one in 40 Americans calls himself or herself the
product of two or more racial groups, according to the 2000 census.
And 14 of the nation's 100 largest cities boast a multiracial group
that represents 5 percent or more of their populations. Eleven of
the cities are in California.
But such numbers are almost certainly skewed, demographers say,
because many Americans confuse race and ethnicity when filling out
forms. For example, the Census Bureau regards Hispanics as an
ethnic group, like Polish or Chinese, rather than a race, like
white or Asian. So the bureau expected Latinos to mark their race
as white or black and their ethnic origin as Hispanic. But the
bureau now concedes that many Hispanics marked themselves as white
or black and "some other race" for Hispanic. In effect, they're
Places that rank high
Count only non-Hispanics, and another picture emerges. Only seven
large cities can boast a 5 percent or greater share of
multiracials. Four of them are in California.
The US city with the biggest share of non-Hispanic multiracials
is Honolulu (with 13.7 percent). That's no surprise, given the
city's heavy Asian population. Neither is Anchorage (5.5 percent),
with its large share of Alaska natives.
The rest of the list wasn't as predictable, however. The usual
melting pots, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, are bested by
lesser-known California cities such as Glendale (10.6 percent),
Stockton (6.0 percent), Sacramento (5.7 percent), and Fremont (5.1
You can probably discount Glendale because of phantom
multiracials in the form of Armenians. "So many recent immigrants
were confused," says Julie Park, research manager for the race
contours project of the University of Southern California in Los
Angeles. "We hypothesize that the majority of the people who marked
multirace are actually Armenians who marked 'white' and 'some other
race,' delineating their ethnic background."
Surprisingly, only one large US city east of the Sierra Nevada
boasts a non-Hispanic multiracial population larger than 5 percent.
And it's not New York, Chicago, or Miami. It's unheralded Jersey
Once a center for organized crime, the city now hosts a crazy
quilt of people - from poor Egyptians looking for a new life to New
Yorkers in search of cheaper housing.
Nationally, multiracial Americans represent the second-smallest
racial group after native Hawaiians (which include other Pacific