Identifying Race and Ethnicity in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth

Audrey Light, Ohio State University
Alita Nandi, Ohio State University

Respondents in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were asked to self-report their race and ethnicity in 1979, and again in 2002. In addition, each respondent's race and ethnicity is classified on the basis of interviewer observations made at the outset of the survey. In this study, we assess the degree of inconsistency in these alternative racial/ethnic classifications. First, we determine how often an individual's racial/ethnic classification changes over time or with the identity of the reporter, and whether these changes are more common among particular racial/ethnic groups. Second, we ask whether individuals with inconsistent classifications differ from other sample members in terms of family background, geographic location, education, and other characteristics. Third, we learn whether detailed classification schemes that account for multi-racial or changing racial/ethnic identities outperform simpler schemes in explaining the variation in such outcomes as schooling attainment, weeks worked, labor market earnings, and age at first marriage.

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Presented in Session 11: Racial Definitions, Racial Identity, and Racial Reporting