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Ancestry: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief)

Ancestry: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief)



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Ancestry is a broad con-cept that can mean dif-ferent things to differ-ent people; it can bedescribed alternately aswhere their ancestorsare from, where they ortheir parents originated,or simply how they seethemselves ethnically.Some people may haveone distinct ancestry,while others aredescendants of severalancestry groups, andstill others may knowonly that their ancestors were from aparticular region of the world or may notknow their ethnic origins at all. TheCensus Bureau defines ancestry as a per-son’s ethnic origin, heritage, descent, or“roots,” which may reflect their place of birth, place of birth of parents or ances-tors, and ethnic identities that haveevolved within the United States.This report is part of a series that pres-ents population and housing data collect-ed by Census 2000, where 80 percent of respondents to the long form specified atleast one ancestry. (About one-sixth of households received the long form.) Itpresents data on the most frequentlyreported ancestries and describes popula-tion distributions for the United States,including regions, states, counties, andselected cities.
The listed ancestrieswere reported by at least 100,000 people,and the numbers cited in this report rep-resent the number of people who report-ed each ancestry either as their first orsecond response.The question on ancestry first appearedon the census questionnaire in 1980,replacing a question on where a person’sparents were born. The question onparental birthplace provided foreign-origin data only for people with one orboth parents born outside the UnitedStates. The current ancestry questionallows everyone to give one or twoattributions of their “ancestry or ethnicorigin” (Figure 1), and in doing so,enables people to identify an ethnicbackground, such as German, Lebanese,Nigerian, or Portuguese, which was nototherwise identified in the race orHispanic-origin questions.The ancestries in this report also includethe groups covered in the questions onrace and Hispanic origin, such as
Helping You Make Informed Decisions 
U.S.Department of Commerce
Economics and Statistics Administration
Issued June 2004
Ancestry: 2000
Census 2000 Brief 
ByAngela BrittinghamandG. Patricia de la Cruz
Figure 1.
Reproduction of the Question on AncestryFrom Census 2000
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 questionnaire.
What is this person’s ancestry or ethnic origin?
(For example: Italian, Jamaican, African Am., Cambodian,Cape Verdean, Norwegian, Dominican, French Canadian,Haitian, Korean, Lebanese, Polish, Nigerian, Mexican,Taiwanese, Ukrainian, and so on.)
The text of this report discusses data for theUnited States, including the 50 states and theDistrict of Columbia. Data for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are shown in Table 3 and Figure 3.
U.S. Census Bureau
African American, Mexican,American Indian, and Chinese. Forthese groups, the results from theancestry question and the race andHispanic-origin questions differ, butthe latter are the official sources of data for race and Hispanic groups.In some cases, the totals reportedon the ancestry question are lowerthan the numbers from the race orHispanic-origin question. Forinstance, nearly 12 million fewerpeople specified “African American”as their ancestry than gave thatresponse to the race question. Onereason for this large difference isthat some people who reportedBlack or African American on therace question reported their ances-try more specifically, such as Jamaican, Haitian, or Nigerian, andthus were not counted in theAfrican American ancestry category.Similarly, more than 2 million fewerpeople reported Mexican ancestrythan gave that answer to theHispanic-origin question.
In othercases, the ancestry questionproduced higher numbers, such asfor Dominicans, whose estimatedtotals from the ancestry questionwere over 100,000 higher thanfrom the Hispanic-origin question,where many Dominicans may havereported a general term (likeHispanic) or checked “other” with-out writing in a detailed response.
More than four out of fivepeople specified at leastone ancestry.
In 2000, 58 percent of the popula-tion specified only one ancestry,22 percent provided two ances-tries, and 1 percent reported anunclassifiable ancestry such as“mixture” or “adopted.” Another19 percent did not report anyancestry at all, a substantialincrease from 1990, when 10 per-cent of the population left theancestry question blank (Table 1).
Nearly one of six peoplereported their ancestryas German.
In 2000, 42.8 million people(15 percent of the population) con-sidered themselves to be of German (or part-German) ancestry,the most frequent response to thecensus question (Figure 2).
Otherancestries with over 15 millionpeople in 2000 included Irish(30.5 million, or 11 percent),African American (24.9 million, or9 percent), English (24.5 million, or9 percent), American (20.2 million,or 7 percent), Mexican (18.4 mil-lion, or 7 percent), and Italian(15.6 million, or 6 percent).Other ancestries with 4 million ormore people included Polish,French, American Indian, Scottish,Dutch, Norwegian, Scotch-Irish,and Swedish.In total, 7 ancestries were reportedby more than 15 million people in2000, 37 ancestries were reportedby more than 1 million people, and
The estimates in this report are basedon responses from a sample of the popula-tion. As with all surveys, estimates may varyfrom the actual values because of samplingvariation or other factors. All statementsmade in this report have undergone statisti-cal testing and are significant at the90-percent confidence level unlessotherwise noted.
(Data based on sample. For information on confidentiality protection, sampling error, nonsampling error, and definitions, see
2000 Change, 1990 to 2000Number Percent Number Percent Numerical Percent
Total population...................... 248,709,873 100.0 281,421,906 100.0 32,712,033 13.2
Ancestry specified......................... 222,608,257 89.5 225,310,411 80.1 2,702,154 1.2Single ancestry ......................... 148,836,950 59.8 163,315,936 58.0 14,478,986 9.7Multiple ancestry ........................ 73,771,307 29.7 61,994,475 22.0 –11,776,832 16.0Ancestry not specified ..................... 26,101,616 10.5 56,111,495 19.9 30,009,879 115.0Unclassified ............................ 2,180,245 0.9 2,437,929 0.9 257,684 11.8Not reported ............................ 23,921,371 9.6 53,673,566 19.1 29,752,195 124.4
1990 estimates in this table differ slightly from 1990 Summary Tape File 3 in order to make them fully consistent with data fromCensus 2000.Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3 and 1990 special tabulation.
For more information about race andHispanic groups, see Census 2000 Briefs onHispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native,Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian and PacificIslander, White, and Two or More Races pop-ulations, available on the Census Bureau Website at
www.census.gov/prod/cen2000  /index.html.
The estimates in Figure 2 and Table 2 insome cases differ slightly from the estimatesin other data products due to the collapsingschemes used. For example, here Germandoes not include Bavarian.
92 ancestries were reported bymore than 100,000 people (Table 2).
The largest Europeanancestries have decreased inpopulation, while AfricanAmerican, Hispanic, and Asianancestries have increased.
The highest growth rates between1990 and 2000 occurred in groupsidentified by a general heritagerather than a particular country of ancestry. For example, the numberof people who reported LatinAmerican, African, or European allmore than quadrupled (LatinAmerican increased from 44,000 in1990 to 250,000 in 2000, Africangrew from 246,000 to 1.2 million,and European rose from 467,000to 2.0 million). Other general-heritage groups that at least dou-bled in size included WesternEuropean, Northern European,Asian, Hispanic, and White.The three largest ancestries in 1990were German, Irish, and English. In2000, these groups were still thelargest European ancestries, buteach had decreased in size by atleast 8 million and by more than20 percent (Table 2). As a propor-tion of the population, Germandecreased from 23 percent in 1990to 15 percent in 2000, while Irishand English decreased from 16 per-cent to 11 percent, and from13 percent to 9 percent, respective-ly. Several other large Europeanancestries also decreased over thedecade, including Polish, French,Scottish, Dutch, and Swedish.The number of people who report-ed African American ancestryincreased by nearly 1.2 million, or4.9 percent, between 1990 and2000, making this group the thirdlargest ancestry. However, the pro-portion of African Americansdecreased slightly over the decade,from 9.5 percent to 8.8 percent.The population of many ancestries,such as Mexican, Chinese, Filipino,and Asian Indian, increased duringthe decade, reflecting sizableimmigration, especially from LatinAmerica and Asia. Several smallancestry populations, includingBrazilian, Pakistani, Albanian,Honduran, and Trinidadian andTobagonian, at least doubled.
Seven percent of theU.S. population reported theirancestry as American.
The number who reportedAmerican and no other ancestryincreased from 12.4 million in1990 to 20.2 million in 2000, thelargest numerical growth of anygroup during the 1990s.
This fig-ure represents an increase of 63 percent, as the proportion rosefrom 5.0 percent to 7.2 percent of the population.
In each of the four regions,a different ancestry wasreported as the largest.
Among the four regions, the largestancestries in 2000 were Irish in the
U.S. Census Bureau
Figure 2.
Fifteen Largest Ancestries: 2000
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 special tabulation.
(In millions. Percent of total population in parentheses.Data based on sample. For information on confidentiality protection,sampling error, nonsampling error, and definitions, see
)Swedish (1.4%)Scotch-Irish (1.5%)Norwegian (1.6%)Dutch (1.6%)Scottish (1.7%)American Indian (2.8%)French (3.0%)Polish (3.2%)Italian (5.6%)Mexican (6.5%)American (7.2%)English (8.7%)African American (8.8%)Irish (10.8%)German (15.2%)4.042.830.524.924.520.218.415.
American was considered a valid ances-try response when it was the only ancestryprovided by a respondent.

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