The “One-Drop Rule:” How Salient is Hypodescent for Multiracial Americans with African American Ancestry?

Campbell, Mary E.
Working paper no. 2003-11


The “one-drop rule” has historically been used to classify individuals with any African American ancestry as black. There is reason to think, however, that this “rule” might be weakening. Using the May 1995 Current Population Survey’s Race and Ethnicity Supplement, I investigate the salience of the “one-drop rule” for multiracial Americans with some African American ancestry who are forced to choose a single race on a survey. I find that the power of the “one-drop rule” varies significantly by the reason the respondent identified as multiracial, the racial context of the region, and the home context. Its salience varies most, however, across different ancestry groups, with those who choose a “black-American Indian” identity most likely to select a black monoracial identity, while other groups are significantly less likely to choose a black identity.