In Census, 2.5M Hispanics Change Race to White
Shift follows pattern of Irish, Italian immigrants
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2014 5:05 AM CDT
People watch a musical performance at the Fiesta del Pueblo festival in Raleigh, N.C.    (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)

(Newser) – The racial make-up of America is changing—even among individual Americans. Census forms reveal that a larger proportion of Americans of Hispanic origin are declaring themselves to be white, for a net shift of 1.2 million between 2000 and 2010, the New York Times finds. Some 2.5 million people who identified themselves as of "Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" in 2000 listed their race as "some other race" that year and "white" a decade later, while 1.3 million changed their race in the other direction.

A total of 10 million more Americans checked different race or Hispanic-origin boxes in the 2010 census than they had in the 2000 count, according to the Pew Research Center, which notes that people too young to have filled out the form themselves in 2000 account for much of the change. But "becoming white" is nothing new in American history: Irish and Italian immigrants were originally considered non-white, and Benjamin Franklin once declared Swedes, Russians, and even non-Saxon Germans to have a too "swarthy complexion" to be considered white. As happened with earlier groups of immigrants, "assimilation, intermarriage, and upward mobility" appear to be driving the shift among Hispanics, writes Jamelle Bouie at Slate.