How Californians Self-Identify When Asked About Their Ethnic Roots
Our discussions of race and ethnic identity usually paint ourselves and others in broad strokes: Black. White. Latino. Pacific Islander. Asian. A new dataset released today aims to deepen the conversation on race by taking a look at "our incredibly varied 'roots.'"
The Roots Beyond Race project — created by our friends at APM Research Lab — defines 198 distinct heritage groups pulled from U.S. Census Bureau data. Because the census data is self-reported, it illustrates how Americans across all 50 states see themselves.
We're looking for your help as you explore this data. What stands out to you? Do you have any questions? Ask below>> We'll use your observations and questions as we dive deeper into race and heritage in L.A. and Southern California in another story coming soon.
Let's start with a quick look at California.
HOW DO CALIFORNIANS SELF-IDENTIFY?
It's no secret that L.A. is a diverse, multi-ethnic melting pot of races and cultures. But how does the state as a whole stack up? According to the data, California leads the nation in the largest number of residents for many heritage groups, including:
- Mexican (13.1 million)
- Irish (2.5 million)
- Chinese (1.9 million)
- Japanese (497,000)
- Armenian (268,000)
- Taiwanese (177,000)
- Thai (77,000)
- Afghan (57,000)
- Mexican Indian (48,000)
- Yugoslavian (21,000)
- Sri Lankan (13,000)
- Latvian (10,000)
- Hong Kong (7,000)
SO HOW DOES CALIFORNIA COMPARE TO THE REST OF THE NATION?
More Americans (of any race) claim German heritage — 43.5 million — than any other group. This is followed by 37.9 million Americans who trace their ancestry to Mexico.
When you start to look at how specific racial/ethnic groups trace their family history, the data is even more diverse. The following are the most common heritage groups among the racial/ethnic groups studied:
- Asian Indian
- African American
- European (not otherwise specified)
- Puerto Rican
*including multiracial people
NOTE: For single-race indigenous people, the top tribal affiliations are Navajo, Cherokee, and Chippewa/Ojibwe.
You might notice above that the top heritage group for blacks is African American. This is to compensate for the fact that many black Americans can't trace their family's ancestry to a country of origin because they were forced from their homelands as slaves. Consequently, the researchers constructed a heritage group for African American that included any responses of African American, African or Afro-American and American for their first or second ancestries. It also includes anyone who identified as Black (alone or in combination with other races) and also listed American for their first or second ancestries.