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National research Council (US) panel on Race, Ethnicity, and also Health in later on Life; Anderson NB, Bulatao RA, Cohen B, editors. An important Perspectives top top Racial and Ethnic differences in health and wellness in late Life. Washington (DC): nationwide Academies press (US); 2004.


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National research Council (US) panel on Race, Ethnicity, and Health in later Life; Anderson NB, Bulatao RA, Cohen B, editors.

Gary D. Sandefur, mar E. Campbell, and Jennifer Eggerling-Boeck

Our snapshot of racial and also ethnic disparities in the wellness of older americans is strongly affected by the approaches of collecting data ~ above race and ethnicity. In ~ one level there is a an excellent deal of consistency in data collection. Many Americans and also most researchers have actually in psychic a general categorical scheme that consists of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians. Many Americans and practically all researcher are also aware that these basic categories disguise significant heterogeneity within each of these significant groups. Come the degree possible, current research has attempted to identify and also compare subgroups within each of the major racial and ethnic groups, do distinctions by nation of origin, nativity, and also generation in ~ the united States. Many researchers typically agree that these category are generally social constructions the have adjusted and will continue to adjust over time.

Once we start to explore an ext deeply the methods in i beg your pardon data ~ above the elderly populace are collected, however, we uncover inconsistency across data sets and time. Part of this variation is native inconsistency in the means that american think and talk about race and also ethnicity. Race and ethnicity room words that carry heavy intellectual and political baggage, and also issues bordering racial and also ethnic identities are often contested within and across groups. The controversy over racial and ethnic categories before the 2000 Census is just one of the many recent, but by no means the only, instance of these contests. Several advocacy teams pressured the Office of Management and also Budget (OMB) to review its racial and also ethnic categories and data repertoire schemes (see Farley, 2001, and Rodriguez, 2000, because that discussions of the controversies). This led to several significant changes, including the most well-known change, which enabled individuals come choose an ext than one racial classification in the 2000 Census. Although many national and also many regional data collection efforts follow the commonwealth guidelines, they vary in the way in which questions are constructed and also in the stimulate in i m sorry they appear in the questionnaire or interview schedule. Together seemingly trivial distinctions in measurement lead to various distributions that responses about racial and ethnic identification (Hirschman, Alba, and also Farley, 2000).

Another inconsistency that has troubled health researchers is the arsenal of racial and ethnic data using various criteria throughout data sources. A great example the this is the mismatch between self-selected gyeongju (which is used in many data sets) and also the observer-selected gyeongju that is regularly used for fatality certificates. Comparisons between next-of-kin gyeongju identifications and also death certificate have presented that a big proportion of, for example, black Hispanics space misidentified on fatality certificates. This leads to a significant overestimate of your life expectancy due to the fact that the race-specific mortality prices are inaccurate (Swallen and also Guend, 2001).

The function of this thing is to research the effects of just how we measure up racial and also ethnic identity for our expertise of racial and ethnic disparities in health, especially amongst the elderly.1 We focus on the main classifications supplied to develop statistics on the health and wellness status the the elderly, and also because self-identification is the fundamental tool used to assign people to the official categories, we discover factors connected with self-identification.2 Although us emphasize identification and also classification including the elderly, lot of what we have to say uses to other age groups as well. We an initial look in ~ what the social scientific research literature needs to say about the means in which people and society construct racial and ethnic identities. Second, us examine how information on race and also ethnicity is videotaped in some of the significant federal data sets provided to study wellness disparities amongst the elderly. We then talk about some of the major problems in our national device of collecting and reporting on health and wellness disparities. Us conclude v some recommendations for achieving higher consistency in the collection and reporting of racial and also ethnic information.


Historical understandings of Racial and Ethnic Identity

Over time, scholastic and famous understandings that racial and also ethnic identities have changed dramatically. Before the 20th century, racial and ethnic teams were viewed as permanent, biological types. Scholars of race and also ethnicity turned to Biblical passages and, later, theory of natural background to explain the origins of differences among ethnic and also racial teams (Banton, 1998). Lock concluded that these group differences were natural and immutable. Cornell and also Hartmann (1998) describe that the paradigms popular amongst social researchers in the late 19th and also early 20th century “conceived ethnic and racial teams as biologically unique entities and gave to biology the larger part of the responsibility for distinctions in the cultures and also the political and also economic fortunes of these groups” (Cornell and also Hartmann, 1998, p. 42).

The work of Franz Boas change the version describing racial and ethnic differences from one stressing biology come one that concentrated on cultural differences (Cornell and Hartmann, 1998). This change implied that racial and ethnic groups were dynamic fairly than static. This paradigmatic changes influenced the occupational on race in the arising Chicago institution of Sociology, which resulted in an assimilationist design of racial and ethnic identities (Cornell and Hartmann, 1998). In this model, the inherent flexibility of racial and ethnic identities would eventually lead to the adaptation of distinctive racial and also ethnic minority teams into the tendency culture. However, breakthroughs in the center of the 20th century, such as strengthening ethnic and racial conflicts, required social scientists to reconsider the question of racial and ethnic identities.

Two paradigms, primordialism and circumstantialism, arised in the post-assimilationist era (Cornell and Hartmann, 1998). Supporters of primordialism asserted the for each individual “ethnicity is fixed, fundamental, and rooted in the unchangeable circumstances of birth” (Cornell and Hartmann, 1998, p. 48). Those favoring circumstantialism asserted that individuals and groups case ethnic or gyeongju identities as soon as these identities space in some way advantageous. As more and more social scientific research investigated racial and also ethnic identities, it came to be clear that neither model was maybe to totally explain the complexities of this phenomena. The many prevalent present view ~ above racial and ethnic identities is a society constructionist version (Banton, 1998; Cornell and Hartmann, 1998; Nagel, 1996). Within this system, “the building of ethnicity is an ongoing process that combines the past and the existing into building material for brand-new or revitalized identities and groups” (Nagel, 1996, p. 19).3

As views of racial and also ethnic identities have changed over time, so have actually official categories and measurement procedures. The U.S. Census has actually classified human being into racial groups because its beginning in 1790. However, the perform of categories and the method of measuring race or ethnicity has readjusted many time in the intervening decades, as the political and also economic pressures shaping the repertoire of gyeongju data have actually changed. In beforehand Censuses, enumerators answer the race question based on their tardy of the individual. The earliest Censuses offered slave condition as a proxy because that a racial category, the just race alternatives being “free White persons, slaves, or every other complimentary persons” (Sandefur, Martin, Eggerling-Boeck, Mannon, and also Meier, 2001; U.S. Office of the Census, 1973). In later years more specific categories for those of combined African American and also white descent, such as mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon, were supplied (Lee, 1993). Asian groups have actually been detailed on the kind since the late 1800s. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino were the very first Asian groups to appear on the Census; later Korean, Vietnamese, eastern Indian, and other oriental groups were added to the list. American ind were contained as a different group beginning in 1870. The Census question measuring the Hispanic populace has likewise varied over time. Enumerators have actually used a Spanish surname, the usage of the Spanish language in the home, and the birthplace the the respondent or parents to indicate Hispanic ethnicity.

In 1970, racial category on the Census readjusted from enumerator to know to self-identification. This readjust had a fairly minor impact on the count of racial and ethnic teams in 1970 compared to 1960. However, it developed a instance that led to significant changes in counts throughout subsequent years. This methodological transition proved come be particularly influential for American Indians. Throughout the period between 1960 and also the finish of the 20th century, the dimension of the American Indian populace as measure up by the Census raised much more than might be accounted for by migrate or births (Eschbach, 1993; Nagel, 1996). This boost was because persons whom enumerators had previously figured out as gift of another race began self-identifying as American Indian and, after 1970, there was enhanced self-identification as American Indian through those who previously self-identified or were figured out by your parents as being in some other team (Nagel, 1996).

In 1997 OMB announced brand-new standards for commonwealth data top top race and also ethnicity (OMB, 1999). Complying with the OMB standards, the 2000 Census provided the five said racial categories: White, black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and also Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander. The Census bureau also included a 6th category, “some other race.” The aboriginal Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander to be separated indigenous the asian category because that the first time. A 2nd and even more influential change allowed respondents to choose more than one racial category.4 prior to the 2000 Census, the U.S. Bureau of the Census carried out several tests—including the 1996 Race and also Ethnic targeted Test—to consider the ramifications of transforming the way in i beg your pardon data were collected for the counts that racial and also ethnic groups in the joined States.5 The major conclusion that came out the this test to be that permitting individuals come choose much more than one racial team had a very little impact top top the measured gyeongju composition of the population (Hirschman et al., 2000; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997).

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Based on these results, Hirschman and also colleagues (2000) predicted that 1 to 2 percent the whites and also blacks in the 2000 Census would identify with an ext than one race and also that the numbers of respondent who established solely as American Indian or asian would not be considerably different indigenous what one would discover if people were constrained come pick just one race. ~ above the various other hand, they predicted that some who in the past had actually recorded their race as white or “some various other race” would certainly report more than one race. Your predictions turned out to it is in correct. In Census 2000, 97.6 percent that the U.S. Population reported just one race. Of the 2.4 percent, or 6.8 million, that reported more than one race, 32 percent reported white and also “some other race,” 16 percent report white and American Indian/Alaska Native, 13 percent reported white and Asian, and also 11 percent reported white and also black or afri American (cU.S. Office of the Census, 2001c). Another method to look at at this figures, however, is to note that the dimension of the populace reporting 2 or much more races is bigger than the American Indian or Pacific Islander populations and about fifty percent the dimension of the oriental population.