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The 2020 census results are in and they are somewhat surprising. Since 2010, the number of non-Hispanic Americans who identify as multiracial jumped 127%. And for Hispanics, the numbers were even more stark*/pronounced. In 2010, only 6% of Hispanics identified as multiracial. Now, one third of Hispanics identify as multiracial.

The rise in America’s multiracial population begs the question: are there actually more multiracial Americans? Or are more people simply identifying as such?

According to census experts, the answer is: both. In 2020, the census changed their design so that Americans were able to describe their identity more thoroughly. Gone are the days of: Black, White, Asian [Check One].

“These changes reveal that the US population is much more multiracial, and more racially and ethnically diverse, than what we measured in the past,” said Nicholas Jones, Senior Advisor of Race and Ethnic Research and Outreach of the Census Bureau’s Population Division, to The New York Times.

But it’s not just that more people are identifying as multiracial. There actually are more multiracial people in the U.S. than there ever have been before.

The Pew Research center says that, in 1980, 7% of newlyweds were in interracial marriages. In 2015, that number was 17%. So obviously, interracial marriages produced multiracial children.

Since 2010, the white population has decreased by an unprecedented 8.6%. The full ethnic makeup of the U.S. is as follows: 57.8% white, 18.7% Hispanic, 12.4% Black and 6% Asian. That means that the white population is declining for the first time in American history.

In the past, Latinos were given rather stark options of self-identifying (Black, White, Asian, or Indigenous).

Because of those cut-and-dry options, many Latinos racially identified as white. This time around, they were able to explain themselves a little more.

“The improvements and changes enable a more thorough and accurate depiction of how people self-identify, yielding a more accurate portrait of how people report their Hispanic origin and race within the context of a two-question format,” explained Jones to the Times.

The first question directed towards Latino identity was: “Is this person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?” There was then an option to explain their country of descent. The second question was: “What is this person’s race?” People were then instructed to check off one or more boxes and further explain how they self-identify racially.

For Latinos, the question of racial identity be complicated. After all, most Latinos are taught that they are a mixture of Spanish, Indigenous, and African people.

“A lot of times you are painted in a box where you have to choose,” said Michael Watson, an Afro-Puerto Rican man from the Bronx to The New York Times. “But as a Black man, I felt uncomfortable having to feel as if I had to pick between both sides.”

“For me as a 7-year-old kid, I was like I can’t just pick one,” said 28-year-old Ruby Herrera, who identifies as white and Latino, to the Times. “What do you mean? Which one do I pick? If I pick one, does that mean I’m not the other? None of my classmates understood why I was so upset.”