Friday, September 29, 2006

Being white or American is not important to whites: The General Social Survey asked Americans in 2004 to choose from a list the three identities that were most important to them. Here are the percentages who said yes to a particular identity broken out in terms of race:


Family 79.3%
Job 51.3
Region 36.8
Religion 32.5
Gender 30.5
Age 25.3
Social class 18.8
Nationality 12.5
Race 8.8


Family 75.2
Race 40.7
Religion 38.8
Job 37.0
Gender 33.2
Age 23.0
Region 21.0
Social class 17.8
Nationality 12.8


Family 77.6
Job 46.9
Region 41.2
Race 35.5
Religion 27.8
Gender 21.3
Age 21.3
Social class 10.8
Nationality 9.9

For all groups, family is cited most often, but beyond that we see different rankings. Many whites and Hispanics identify with their occupations and also the place where they live. Religion is most important to blacks, and least important to Hispanics.

The most striking contrast is race. It ranks second among blacks and fourth among Hispanics, but is at the very bottom of the white list. Blacks and even Hispanics are more than four times more likely than whites to feel that race is important to who they are.

So if race is unimportant to whites, where do they exceed these other groups? An American identity perhaps? These data give no indication of that: blacks have a slighly higher number on the nationality identity. (Nationality is not the best term: people use it to refer to ethnicity as well as citizenship). Whites have slightly higher percentages on occupation, age, social class, and political party (numbers not shown since they are so low).

I'm reminded of the debate between Steve Sailer and Jared Taylor over whether whites should pursue a nationalist or citizenist course. According to these data, neither race nor an American identity seems important to whites. Evidently, some whites can be moved by appeals to gender, age, and social class, but the only popular identity for whites that a society could be organized around is religion, and the tradition of separation of church and state and the fact that American religious groups disagree so much work against religion as an organizing principle .


  1. As you say, it would be interesting to know how whites interpreted the "nationality" question: as ethnicity (e.g., Irish) or as citizenship (i.e., American).

  2. Anonymous4:48 AM

    Race unimportant to whites? Then how would someone who says race is unimportant react if his daughter were suddenly courted by a black?

    I think that race looms over everything else for white Americans, it's just that it is impolitic to talk about it. There is no acceptable vocabulary to express the normal and natural race-conciousness of white Americans.

    My suspicion is that just about every dynamic of modern American life is race-driven. Suburban sprawl, careerism, overindulging the kids, the housing bubble, etc etc.

    The second thing, being American as being low in importance. I think that's part complacance and part alienation as a result of our increasingly diverse society.

  3. I think also that the majority race often does not think much about race. Sort of like primitive tribes always referred to themselves as "the people".

    This could perhaps be tested by asking this question in other countries with black or asian majorities. For example, I expect that blacks in some African country well separated from colonialism ... Kenya? ... might not be concerned about race but the Asians, Arabs, and Whites might very well be.

  4. Revealed preference tells a slightly different story for whites and race.

    See also white flight and esp. the new white flight.

  5. Anonymous5:51 AM

    I think they are just thinking
    about race at a more "granular"
    level (i.e., family).

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