Race and ethnicity in the United States

The United States of America has a racially and ethnically diverse population.[1] The United States Census officially recognizes six racial categories: White American, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and people of two or more races; a category called "some other race" is also used in the census and other surveys, but is not official.[2][3][4] The United States Census Bureau also classifies Americans as "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino", which identifies Hispanic and Latino Americans as an ethnicity (not a race) distinct from others, and comprising the largest minority group in the nation.[2][3][5]

The United States Supreme Court unanimously held that "race" is not limited to Census designations on the "race question" but extends to all ethnicities, and thus can include Jewish and Arab as well as Polish or Italian or Irish, etc.[6] In fact, the Census asks an "Ancestry Question" which covers the broader notion of ethnicity initially in the 2000 Census long form and now in the American Community Survey. The ancestry question will return in the 2020 Census.[7]

As of July 2016, White Americans are the racial majority. African Americans are the largest racial minority, amounting to an estimated 12.7% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans amount to an estimated 17.8% of the total U.S. population, making up the largest ethnic minority.[8] The White, non-Hispanic or Latino population make up 61.3% of the nation's total, with the total White population (including White Hispanics and Latinos) being 76.9%.[9]

White Americans are the majority in every census-defined region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West) and in every state except Hawaii[10], but contribute the highest proportion of the population in the Midwestern United States, at 85% per the Population Estimates Program (PEP),[4] or 83% per the American Community Survey (ACS).[11][verification needed] Non-Hispanic Whites make up 79% of the Midwest's population, the highest ratio of any region.[5] However, 35% of White Americans (whether all White Americans or non-Hispanic/Latino only) live in the South, the most of any region.[4][5]

55% of the African American population lives in the South.[4] A plurality or majority of the other official groups reside in the West. The latter region is home to 42% of Hispanic and Latino Americans, 46% of Asian Americans, 48% of American Indians and Alaska Natives, 68% of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 37% of the "two or more races" population (Multiracial Americans), and 46% of those self-designated as "some other race".[4][12]

Racial and ethnic categories

2010 U.S Census[13]Table 1[14]
Self-identified race Percent of population
White alone
Black or African American
Native Americans and Alaska Natives
Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders
Two or more races
Some other race
Hispanic and Latino Americans (of any race): 16.3%[15]

In the 2000 Census and subsequent United States Census Bureau surveys, Americans self-described as belonging to these racial groups:[3]

Each person has two identifying attributes, racial identity and whether or not they are of Hispanic ethnicity.[19] These categories are sociopolitical constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature.[2] They have been changed from one census to another, and the racial categories include both "racial" and national-origin groups.[20][21]

In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US Department of Labor finalized its update of the EEO-1 report format and guidelines to come into an effect on September 30, 2007. In particular, this update concerns the definitions of racial/ethnic categories.

Ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino origin

The question on Hispanic or Latino origin is separate from the question on race.[3][22] Hispanic and Latino Americans have ethnic origins in the countries of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Latin American countries are, like the United States, racially diverse.[23] Consequently, no separate racial category exists for Hispanic and Latino Americans, as they do not constitute a race, nor a national group. When responding to the race question on the census form, each person is asked to choose from among the same racial categories as all Americans, and are included in the numbers reported for those races.[24]

Each racial category may contain Non-Hispanic or Latino and Hispanic or Latino Americans. For example: the White (European-American) race category contains Non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanic Whites (see White Hispanic and Latino Americans); the Black or African-American category contains Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanic Blacks (see Black Hispanic and Latino Americans); the Asian-American category contains Non-Hispanic Asians and Hispanic Asians (see Asian Hispanic and Latino Americans); and likewise for all the other categories. See the section on Hispanic and Latino Americans in this article.

Self-identifying as both Hispanic or Latino and not Hispanic or Latino is neither explicitly allowed nor explicitly prohibited.[2]