Women are more likely to identify as multiracial compared to men, and this is particularly true for daughters of black and white parents, according to a new study published in the journal American Sociological Review.
Among black-white biracials (the offspring of interracial couples in which one parent is black and the other is white) in the study, 76 percent of women and 64 percent of men identified as multiracial.
Among Latino-white biracials, 40 percent of women and 32 percent of men identified as multiracial. Among Asian-white biracials, 56 percent of women and 50 percent of men identified as multiracial.
“It would seem that, for biracial women, looking racially ambiguous is tied to racial stereotypes surrounding femininity and beauty,” said study author Dr. Lauren Davenport, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University.
“So, biracial women are often seen as not fully white and not entirely minority, and they are cast as kind of a mysterious, intriguing ‘racial other.’ As a consequence, it may be easier for women to reside in multiple racial groups simultaneously.”
“However, biracial men may be more likely to be perceived as ‘people of color.’ I argue that the different ways that biracial people are viewed by others influences how they see themselves,” said Davenport.
For the study, the researchers looked at data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey. Every year, thousands of incoming freshmen at hundreds of community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities across the United States complete the survey, which the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles conducts.
Davenport examined a sample of more than 37,000 Asian-white, black-white, and Latino-white biracials.
In addition to the gender differences regarding self-identity, religion and socioeconomic status also played a strong role.
“Relative to biracials who were religiously unaffiliated, those who identified with ethnically homogeneous religions were more likely to label themselves with a single racial category, than as multiracial,” Davenport said.
For example, in contrast to religiously unaffiliated black-white biracials, the likelihood of identifying as multiracial declined by 44 percent for black-white biracial Baptists.
“I also found that money ‘whitens’ racial identification for biracials,” Davenport said. She noted that compared to less affluent biracials, those from the most affluent homes and neighborhoods were more likely to identify themselves as “white” or as multiracial than as singular minorities.
“These findings show that for the growing mixed-race population, racial labeling choices are intimately linked to social group attachments, identities, and income,” Davenport said.
Overall, Davenport found that 71 percent of black-white biracials, 54 percent of Asian-white biracials, and 37 percent of Latino-white biracials identified as multiracial.
But while black-white biracials were the most likely to identify as multiracial, they were also the least likely to self-label as white. Davenport found that five percent of black-white biracials identified as white only, compared to 11 percent of Asian-white biracials and 18 percent of Latino-white biracials.
As for why her study is important, Davenport said the multiple-race population is currently one of the fastest-growing racial groups in the country.
“Rates of interracial marriage continue to rise, and social scientists have estimated that one in five Americans will be of mixed-race by 2050,” Davenport said. “This population is a young one, and how members of this group choose to label themselves will have implications for the American racial landscape and race relations.”