An interactive timeline of race categories in the US Census

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What an interesting topic! In the long haul, I wonder if they’ll just give us a blank to fill in, so we’re all “Other?” Or would they stop asking the question altogether?

Asians seem to get more differentiation than people from other parts of the world. For example, to my mind a Spaniard and a Russian have less in common than a Vietnamese and a Chinese.

In Singapore, where your race is listed on you identity card, you can be listed as Javanese, Balinese, Sumatran, Malaysian, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese etcetera etcetera. However when I asked to be Anglo-saxon they put me down as Caucasian.


The UK census has categories and sub-categories.

At the most recent census (in England and Wales at least), they were:

White - divided into English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish/British, Irish, Gypsy or Irish Traveler and Other.

Mixed/multiple - divided into White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, and Other

Asian/ Asian British- divided into Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Other

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British- divided into African, Caribbean and Other

Other- divided into Arab and Other.

(in each case the “Other” option had a write-in field).

Scotland and NI had slightly different wording- in particular, Scotland separates Scottish and other British. All censuses also had a “national identity” question to which the answers were English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, British and Other.

Apparently the interviewee can freely mix and match since the 1990ies. But that does not alleviate the issue of being forced to either put a racial category on yourself based on your ancestry; or to kind of lie?

I’m fine with people choosing a race if they want to, but nobody should be forced to do so.

A 21st century census that insists to ascertain this category clearly needs options of "none" and/or “human” instead of forcing people into categories that they may not identify with.

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Not a fair comparison. Why not Mongolian and Filipino instead, or some other equally-distant pair? Even different sides of China would be a better comparison: Han or Fujian versus Uyghurs.

Also, western European genes are (in many cases) one big minestrone soup at this point. There isn’t as much difference between someone from Madrid and someone from Moscow as you think.

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Another point to be made: in many of the examples given, the reason there were only some possibilities and not the full gambit is because there were laws keeping people from certain countries/ethnicities OUT. So for example, Chinese were allowed in as laborers to build the railroads (without their families), but not other Asians at that time.

I also find it interesting which categories they didn’t include. The census category of Hebrew, for example, became “white” in the 20th century.

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