Still One Drop of Blood? The New Rules of Ethnoracial Classification in the United States

Ariela Schachter , Washington University in St. Louis
René Flores, University of Chicago
Neda Maghbouleh, University of Toronto

What are the rules governing ethnoracial classification in the United States today? While the U.S. historically has relied on ancestry and hypodescent to police boundaries between Whites and Blacks, diversity driven by post-1965 immigration and rising intermarriage has led to both growing numbers of ethnoracial categories and rising ambiguity about where individuals fall within them. Additionally, there is suggestive evidence that social and cultural cues may also shape perceived race. This growing ambiguity, coupled with copious evidence of the continuing significance of race/ethnicity, motivates our work. We use a survey experiment with a nationally-representative sample of 1,500 non-Hispanic White respondents to identify the biological and socio-cultural traits that shape classification as White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Asian. Our findings point to the importance of both biological and cultural signals, depending on the ethnoracial category in question, and complicate the idea of a ‘one drop rule’.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 186. Measurement of Race and Gender