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Heading the mixed way

india Updated: Apr 28, 2012 23:23 IST
Carol Morello

The number of mixed-race babies has soared over the past decade, new census data shows, a result of more interracial couples and a cultural shift in how many parents identify their children in a multiracial society.

More than 7 percent of the 3.5 million children born in the year before the 2010 Census were of two or more races, up from barely 5 percent a decade earlier. The number of children born to black and white couples and to Asian and white couples almost doubled. "I think people are more comfortable in identifying themselves, and their children, as mixed race," said William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed detailed census data on mixed-race infants.

Young people, typically younger than 15, are much more likely to be identified as mixed race. Among infants younger than 1, there are 17 mixed-race children for every 100 infants whose parents said they are black alone. A decade ago, there were nine.

People who identify themselves as one race tend to be older. They reflect a society in which laws prohibited interracial marriage, and states such as Virginia enforced a so-called "one drop" rule designating anyone as black if they could trace even one drop of their blood to an African American ancestor.

"One out of six kids who used to be thought of as just black will now grow up thinking of themselves as white and black," Frey said. "This is a huge leap. This is a ray of hope that we're finally moving into an era where this sharp, black-white divide is breaking apart."

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