Study: Race Is Central to Identity for Black Americans and Affects How They Connect
No matter where they are from, who they are, their economic circumstances or educational backgrounds, significant majorities of Black Americans say being Black is extremely or very important to how they think about themselves.
A new Pew Research poll revealed that a significant share of Black Americans also says that when something happens to Black people in their local communities, across the nation or around the globe, it affects what happens in their own lives, highlighting a sense of connectedness.
“Black Americans say this even as they have diverse experiences and come from an array of backgrounds,” the authors of the poll noted.
“Even so, Black adults who say being Black is important to their sense of self are more likely than other Black adults to feel connected to other groups of Black people,” the authors discovered.
“They are also more likely to feel that what happens to Black people inside and outside the United States affects what happens in their own lives.”
Pew Research Center conducted an analysis online between Oct. 4, 2021, and Oct. 17, 2021.
The organization surveyed 3,912 Black U.S. adults and explored differences among Black Americans in views of identity such as between U.S.-born Black people and Black immigrants; Black people living in different regions of the country; and between Black people of different ethnicities, political party affiliations, ages, and income levels.
Most non-Hispanic Black Americans (78 percent) reported that being Black is very or extremely important to how they think about themselves.
This racial group counted as the largest among Black adults, accounting for 87 percent of the adult population, according to 2019 Census Bureau estimates.
But among other Black Americans, roughly six-in-ten multiracial (57 percent) and Hispanic (58 percent) Black adults reported the same.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the nation’s Black population stands at 47 million, or 14 percent of the country’s population.
The survey authors reported that while the vast majority of Black Americans said their racial background is Black alone (88 percent in 2020), growing numbers are also multiracial or Hispanic.
Most were born in the U.S. and trace their roots back several generations in the country, but a growing share are immigrants (12 percent) or the U.S.-born children of immigrant parents (9 percent).
Geographically, while 56 percent of Black Americans live in the nation’s South, the national Black population has also dispersed widely across the country, researchers reported.
The report noted that Black Americans also differ in significant ways in their views about the importance of being Black to personal identity.
While majorities of all age groups of Black people say being Black shapes how they think about themselves, younger Black Americans are less likely to respond the same.
Black adults ages 50 and older are more likely than Black adults ages 18 to 29 to say that being Black is very or extremely important to how they think of themselves.
Specifically, 76 percent of Black adults ages 30 to 49, 80 percent of those 50 to 64 and 83 percent of those 65 and older hold this view, while only 63 percent of those under 30 reported that belief.
Black adults who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than those who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party to say being Black is important to how they see themselves – 86 percent vs. 58 percent.
And Black women (80 percent) are more likely than Black men (72 percent) to say being Black is important to how they see themselves.
The report found that some subgroups of Black Americans are about as likely as others to say that being Black is very or extremely important to how they think about themselves.
According to the survey, U.S.-born and immigrant Black adults are about as likely to say being Black is important to how they see their identity.
However, not all Black Americans feel the same about the importance of being Black to their identity – 14 percent say it is only somewhat important to how they see themselves while 9 percent say it has little or no impact on their personal identity, reflecting the diversity of views about identity among Black Americans.
Among the main highlights from the report include:
• About half of Black adults say their fates are strongly linked with other Black people in the U.S.
• Most Black adults say being Black is very important to how they see themselves
• Black Americans who say being Black is important to them are more likely to feel connected to other Black people.
• Black adults who say being Black is important to them are more likely to learn about their ancestors from relatives.
• Black adults under 30 years old differ significantly from older Black adults in their views on the importance of Blackness to their personal identity.
• However, Black adults also differ by age in how they pursue knowledge of family history, how informed they feel about U.S. Black history, and their sense of connectedness to other Black people.
• Black Democrats more likely than Republicans to say what happens to other Black people in the U.S. will affect their own lives.
• Half of Black adults say where they currently live is an important part of their identity.
• Majorities of Black adults say their gender and sexuality are very important to them.
• Black women are more likely than Black men to say their gender is very important to them.