Separate and Unequal: Observed and Self-Reported Race in the General Social Survey

Aliya Saperstein, University of California, Berkeley

Using unique national data from a recent experimental sub-sample of the General Social Survey (GSS) that includes multiple measures of race, I examine observed and self-reported racial classifications for patterns of inconsistency. Much as Telles concludes with similar Brazilian data (Telles 2002; Telles and Lim 1998), this study indicates that the two types of classification can yield different results because they describe demographically different groups of people. In particular, I find differences in educational attainment, age, and parents' country of origin help explain inconsistencies between the two types of racial classification in the GSS sample. These findings have implications for improved methodology in social science research that relies on racial classification.

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