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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

Census 2000 project finds compelling trends in race, ethnicity

The Census 2000 data is in. Making sense of it is another question.

However, an ongoing project by the Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity may help to explain what all those columns of demographic figures tell us about the population of the Golden State and, in particular, the Bay Area.

The first four installments of the CCSRE Race and Ethnicity in California: Demographics Report Series are posted on the web at They include graphs, number charts and written analysis; additional reports based on Census 2000 data will appear periodically on the center's website over the next year.

For journalists, policymakers and nonprofit organizations, the report series should be a boon; for other members of the public, it should answer some key questions about the changing face of their communities.

"It's written to be a resource for anybody interested in Census 2000 and the changing demographics of California," said CCSRE demographer Alejandra Lopez, a Stanford alumna who recently earned her doctorate in social research methodology at the University of California-Los Angeles.

According to series adviser and history Professor Al Camarillo, there has been a dearth of good demographic data on racial and ethnic groups in the state.

"Different projects have produced different sets of data, but nothing that is consistent," Camarillo said. "What we'd like to build, ideally, is a systematic series of reports."

While the Census Bureau organizes its data under dozens of different categories, it does not undertake "the more nuanced, specific analysis that's useful for scholars and nonprofit organizations," Camarillo said.

Sociology Professor Matt Snipp, who is also a series adviser, agreed.

"It makes the data much more easily accessible and saves people time," Snipp said. "The reports also highlight the unique demography of California and the Bay Area, in particular."

The first report confirms what most local residents have long suspected: that the Bay Area is one of the most ethnically and racially diverse regions of the nation. Alameda is the most racially and ethnically diverse county in the Bay Area and has the smallest percentage of whites (40.94 percent); Marin is the least diverse county and has the largest percentage of whites (78.55 percent). Based on residential data from the Census, the report concludes that black residents are the least integrated with whites, followed by Latinos, Asians and American Indians. Data in the report also illustrate that the under-18 population in the Bay Area is more racially and ethnically diverse than the region's overall population.

The fourth report in the series reflects the government's decision to allow U.S. residents for the first time to describe themselves using more than one race. The series meticulously addresses this multiracial data and comes up with some interesting facts: Close to 22 percent of the state population that identifies as white also identifies as being Latino, and 71.4 percent of California residents who identify as American Indian also indicated that they are at least one other race and/or Latino.

"What's unique about the series, I think, is that it shows how complex interpretations of race and ethnicity are," Lopez said. "The series is a resource that will help people to tackle these complex questions more easily."

The fourth report also exposes how ambiguous definitions of race and identity can be according to Census 2000 a fact that is sure to complicate some governmental functions.

"It raises questions about how you count people for civil rights enforcement," Snipp said.


More reports pending

Funded by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the project aims to produce about a dozen reports based on Census 2000 data, Camarillo said. He said he hopes to expand the project to examine statewide population trends in race and ethnicity that have occurred since 1970, when the Census Bureau began collecting more accurate data on Hispanics.

"California is on the leading edge of an enormous demographics change that will transform the way we think of race and ethnicity in this century," Camarillo said.

The four completed reports look at racial and ethnic diversity and residential segregation in the Bay Area; households and families in the Bay Area; households and families in the 10 largest Bay Area cities; and the state's population of residents who indicated they identify with more than one race. Upcoming reports will examine language use, educational attainment, occupation and work status, income and poverty. For hard copies, e-mail Lopez at or write to her at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Building 240, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2152.


By John Sanford

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