Home / Population and society / Articles / What does the Census mean by "Some Other Race"?

In the 2020 US census, 281.5 million Americans described their race using only one or more of the five races listed on the survey: white, Black or African American; Asian; American Indian and Alaska Native; and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.

The remaining 49.9 million Americans — 15.1% of the country — selected the “some other race” category, either on its own or in combination with other categories, to describe their racial identity.

Nearly 28 million of those Americans selected “some other race” alone. The rest were multi-racial, identifying both with “some other race” and at least one of the listed racial categories.

The states with the highest percentages of people categorized as “some other race” alone or in combination were along the southern border, where the Hispanic population is also at its highest. As it turns out, there’s a large overlap between the two groups.

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How does the census categorize race and ethnicity?

The Census Bureau classifies race and ethnicity separately, adhering to the guidance of the Office of Management and Budget’s 1997 Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity[1]. The race question includes the above five categories and the “some other race” option; the ethnicity question asks whether a person is Hispanic or Latino or not Hispanic or Latino. Because of this, many ethnically Hispanic people selected "some other race.” In fact, 90.8% of people in the “some other race” category were ethnically Hispanic. These included 17.5 million people categorized as Mexican, 2.2 million as Puerto Rican, and 1.1 million as Cuban — either alone or as part of a multiracial identity. (Read on at Our Changing Population for much more on race and ethnicity in the US.)

What non-Hispanic racial groups are included in “some other race”?

Among the 4.6 million non-Hispanic people who selected “some other race” alone or in any combination, the largest specified groups — excluding multiracial and multiethnic responses like “biracial” and “mixed” — were people from Brazil (524,346), Guyana (205,723), and Cabo Verde (113,041).

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Where do people in “some other race” groups primarily live?

Some of the biggest “some other race” populations were largely in specific states and regions.

Hispanic

The Mexican population was concentrated across the southern border, with 65.9% living in the four US states that share a land border with Mexico — California (36.5%), Texas (22.8%), Arizona (5.2%), and New Mexico (1.4%). Puerto Ricans were most populous in Florida (home to 20.8%) as well as New York (17.1%). Nearly two-thirds of Cubans in the US also live in Florida.

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Non-Hispanic

People in the largest non-Hispanic groups in the “some other race” category were also concentrated. Up to 62.2% of Cabo Verdeans — alone or in any combination — lived in Massachusetts, and another 18.5% in neighboring Rhode Island. Of the over 200,000 Guyanese people living in the US, 51.3% lived in three New York City boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. Both Florida (21.4%) and Massachusetts (19.2%) were home to large shares of the Brazilian population.

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Who else is counted in the “some other race” category?

In addition to people with specified races that aren’t options in the census, the “some other race” category included almost 1.9 million multiracial and multiethnic write-in responses, including terms like “multiracial,” “biracial,” and “mixed” either alone or with other races. These responses don’t account for people who selected multiple races and are not a thorough count of the nation’s multiracial population.

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Census Bureau
[1]

The 1997 OMB Standards define “white” as “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.”