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Perez, Anthony Daniel & Hirschman, Charles (2009). Estimating Net Interracial Mobility in the United States: A Residual Methods Approach. Sociological Methodology, 39(1), 31-71. PMCID: PMC3783203


This paper presents a residual methods approach to identifying social mobility across race/ethnic categories. In traditional demographic accounting models, population growth is limited to changes in natural increase and migration. Other sources of population change are absorbed by the model residual and can be estimated only indirectly. While these residual estimates have been used to illuminate a number of elusive demographic processes, there has been little effort to incorporate shifts in racial identification into formal accounts of population change. In light of growing evidence that a number of Americans view race/ethnic identities as a personal choice, not as a fixed characteristic, mobility across racial categories may play important roles in the growth of race/ethnic subpopulations and changes to the composition of the United States. To examine this potential, we derive a reduced-form population balancing equation that treats fertility and international migration as given and estimates survival from period life table data. After subtracting out national increase and net international migration and adjusting for changes in racial measurement and census coverage, we argue that the remaining error of closure provides a reasonable estimate of net interracial mobility among the native born. Using recent U.S. Census and ACS microdata, we illustrate the impact that identity shifts may have had on the growth of race/ethnic subpopulations in the past quarter century. Findings suggest a small drift from the non-Hispanic white population into race/ethnic minority groups, though the pattern varies by age and between time periods.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Sociological Methodology


Perez, Anthony Daniel
Hirschman, Charles