Multiracial Identification in the 2020 Census: The Potential Role of Genetic Ancestry Testing

12-1 pm

PSTC Seminar Room 205, Mencoff Hall

Wendy Roth, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania

The 2020 Census showed a particularly large increase in the population selecting two or more races, which grew by 276% since 2010. While changes in the question design and data processing likely account for much of this increase, some have asked if the popularity of genetic ancestry tests (GATs) could play a role. I address this question, drawing primarily on two studies: a qualitative study with GAT consumers and a randomized controlled trial with White Americans on the impact of taking GATs. These show that purchasing and taking GATs is associated with an increase in multiracial identification, particularly for White test-takers. Furthermore, many of those who changed their racial identity after testing claimed they marked that change on the Census. However, those who purchase GATs may be more likely to suspect having multiracial ancestry; those who receive free tests are much less likely to change their racial identity after testing. GATs likely contribute to, but do not play a major role in, the large increase in multiracial identification in the recent census.

Access the complete paper here

Wendy D. Roth is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Roth is a sociologist of race, ethnicity, and immigration, with interests in Latin America, transnational processes, multiracial populations and identities, and intersections of race and genomics. Her research focuses primarily on how social processes challenge racial and ethnic boundaries and transform classification systems. Her book, Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race (Stanford University Press 2012) examines how immigration changes cultural concepts of race, not only for the migrants themselves, but also for their host society, and for the societies they left behind. Her current work focuses on how genetic ancestry testing influences racial and ethnic identities, conceptions of race, racial attitudes, and racial interactions. She has received several awards for her research, including the 2007 American Sociological Association Outstanding Dissertation Award, the 2011 Oliver Cromwell Cox Article Award from the ASA Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and the 2016 Canadian Sociological Association Early Career Scholar Award.

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