Report: As U.S. Black Population Grows, Self-Identity Diversifies

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A Pew Research Center study shows expanding intermarriage and international migration shifts how Black residents identify themselves.

There are 46.8 million people living in the U.S. who identify as Black, and as the demographic grows, the way they self-identify has changed too, according to a new Pew Research Center report

The study finds that “Black” and “African-American” residents increasingly consider themselves either Hispanic or multiracial. It also points out, among the U.S. Black population, both multiracial and Hispanic numbers have grown since 2000. 

To gather results, the report relied on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. According to the analysis, the change in self-identification can be attributed to the population growth of foreign-born Blacks and the varied histories of African-American ethnicities. 

In 2019, 14% of the U.S. population identified as Black, either alone or as a part of a multiracial or ethnic background. Meanwhile, the population has grown from 36.2 million in 2000 to 46.8 million in 2019, the Pew report shows. 

In that time, the way Blacks self-identify has changed. Nearly 90% of the Black population identified as Black alone, 5% self-identified as both Black and Hispanic, and 8% reported they were Black and another race. Most of the Black people who identified with another race identified as white mainly. 

The study defines multiracial Blacks as people who self-identify as two or more races and do not identify as Hispanic or Latino. Black Hispanics are those who self-identify as Black and Hispanic or Latino, as well as those who self-identify as multiracial Black and Hispanic or Latino.

Numbers also show that the foreign-born Black population has grown, according to the Pew study. From 2000 to 2019, the number of Black immigrants in America grew from 7% to 10%. Nine-in-10 of those people immigrated from African or Caribbean countries. 

As far as location, over half of the Black population (56%) lives in the South. The Northeast and Midwest have 17% of the Black population, while 10% live in the West. 

When broken down by state population, Texas has the highest share of Black residents. Georgia, Florida, New York and California round out the top five. 

New York City has the highest Black population for a metropolitan area. Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia are also among the five cities with the largest Black population.  

More information about the study can be found here.

Brent Woodie is an associate editor at Route Fifty

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