Acting White or Acting Black: Mixed-Race Adolescents’ Identity and Behavior

Christopher S. Ruebeck, Lafayette College
Susan L. Averett, Lafayette College
Howard N. Bodenhorn, Clemson University

The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 9(1) Contributions
[NBER working paper, PDF] [Full paper, PDF] [dspace record]


Although rates of interracial marriage are on the rise, we still know relatively little about the experiences of mixed-race adolescents. In this paper, we examine the identity and behavior of mixed-race (black and white) youth. We find that mixed-race youth adopt both types of behaviors, those that can be empirically characterized as ‘black’ and those that can be characterized as ‘white.’ When we combine both types of behavior, average mixed-race behavior is a combination that is neither white nor black, and the variance in mixed-race behavior is generally greater than the variance in behavior of monoracial adolescents, especially as compared to the black racial group. Adolescence is the time during which there is most pressure to establish an identity, and our results indicate that mixed-race youth are finding their own distinct identities, not necessarily ‘joining’ either monoracial group, but in another sense joining both of them.