Is American An Ethnicity? Read To Find Out

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The United States of America, a country comprising 50 states and capitals, is the world’s third most populous country. And like every other populous and diverse country in the world, conversations about ethnicity regarding America pops up now and then.

Most people have questioned if America is actually an ethnicity or not. And frankly, you can’t heap any blame on such people, given America 

So, let’s answer the question. 

Is American an Ethnicity? 

America is home to many people of different ethnic groups. In other words, America has more than one ethnic group under its umbrella. A large fraction of the American people comprises nationals and citizens. But this doesn’t take away the fact that there are people with dual citizenship, permanent residency, and even expatriates who are legally citizens of America. 

Due to the diverse ethnic origin in the United States, the law doesn’t base nationality on ethnicity or race but citizenship and sworn oath of allegiance. 

Keep reading for more details on this topic. 

What Ethnicity Means 

An ethnic group refers to a group of people who have the same culture, language, religion, ancestry, or tradition. These things they have in common are what make them different from other groups. 

Ethnicity gets used interchangeably with the nation. Which doesn’t always convey the meaning as it should be. Although people who belong to the same ethnic group may be from the same country, they can also be from different countries. Ethnicity is a broad subject that many Americans don’t get yet. It goes beyond having the same country in common to having more deep connections.

The United States is home to a diverse range of ethnic groups. Most Americans have ancestors who came from somewhere else. Sometimes there is more than one place. Some people claim to have “American” ancestors; these include people from the South, whose families have lived in America before the American Revolution.

How Have People Used Ethnicity? 

How people use ethnicity highlights a key distinction between race and ethnicity. The race gets assigned to people based on physical characteristics. Ethnicity is many times the persons’ choice. 

Furthermore, because it includes everything from religion to language to culture to nationality, people can associate themselves with multiple identities. 

An individual may choose to identify as British, Somali, or Asian American. This choice may come from varying aspects of their culture, religion, racial identity, and ancestry. 

Unfortunately, people have used ethnicity to oppress different groups. The Holocaust was a typical example. The interethnic conflict of the Rwandan genocide is also a good example, where people used ethnicity to justify mass killings. However, ethnicity can be beneficial for people who feel trapped in one racial group or another. 

The United States Census 

The 2020 United States census categorized ethnicity and race as separate entities. The last race-ethnic population census carried out by the US Census Bureau identifies five racial categories in America and people of two or more races. They are:

  • White Americans /European Americans
  • Black or African American 
  • American Indian/Alaska native 
  • Asian Americans 
  • Native Hawaiians/other Pacific islanders.

The Census Bureau also identified people as Hispanic or Latino or neither. The Hispanics and Latino got categorized as ethnic groups and not races. And this made them the largest minority group. 

White Americans are the racial majority as of July 2016. Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic groups. They are responsible for approximately 18% of the American population. Right behind the Hispanics and the Latinos are the African Americans. They are the second-largest racial minority in America. They account for 13.4% of the American population. 

The remaining part of the population is the whites. The non-Hispanic, non-Latino whites account for 61% of the country’s population. Therefore, the total White population, including the white Latinos and Hispanics, make up 77% of the population. 

White/European Americans 

The White Americans commonly referred to as Caucasian Americans; make up many of the United States population. Three hundred eight million people live in the United States and white Americans account for 72.4% of them. 

The White Americans are descendants of the original Europeans, the Middle Easterners, and North Africans. Amongst the people who identify as white Americans are people who belonged to multiple races. There were over 7 million of them. The most common mix was white and black. 

There are also over 29 million White Hispanics or Latinos.  The number of people who are non-Hispanic whites is more than the Hispanics in almost 45 states. Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii, California, Nevada are the five major minority states in America. 

Furthermore, non-whites are largely more than whites in the District of Columbia and the five inhabited US territories. Maine has the highest percentage of non-Hispanic White Americans.

The Europeans who have ancestors in any of Europe’s original peoples are the largest continental ancestral group of Americans. This group includes African, North American, Caribbean, Central American, South American, and Oceanian countries with a sizable European Diaspora.

The four largest European ancestry groups in the US are:

  • German Americans (13.2 percent)
  • Irish Americans (9.7 percent)
  • English Americans (7.1 percent) 
  • Italian Americans (5.1 percent)

Other ancestry groups include:

  • Polish 
  • Mexican 
  • French 
  • Norwegian
  • Dutch 
  • Scottish 
  • Italian

Black Or African American 

Black and African Americans are US citizens and residents with Sub-Saharan African ancestors. The majority of the population (55 percent) lives in the South; however, there has been a decrease in African Americans in the Northeast and Midwest since the 2000 Census.

In the 2000 US Census, few African immigrants self-identify as “African American” or “Afro-American.” The majority of African immigrants identify with their ethnicity. Due to racial and cultural differences, some people may have disagreements with African Americans. Their ancestry groups include: 

  • Jamaican 
  • Trinidadiam and Tobagonian 
  • Barbadian 
  • Nigerian 
  • Haitian 

American Indian Or Alaska Native 

Native Americans and Alaska Natives account for 5.2 million people, either alone or in combination with other races; they account for 1.7 percent of the total population. The term “American Indian” has become popular because 50% of those who fit the OMB definition, while “Native American” is preferred by 37%. Their national origin includes: 

  • Cherokee 
  • Mexican American Indian
  • Chippewa 
  • Choctaw 
  • Navajo
  • Sioux 

Asian Americans 

Asian Americans make up 5.6 percent of the US population, or 17.3 million people, in 2010. They earn more than any other racial group, including whites. And they’re highly urbanized. For better or worse, Asian Americans are now the model minority. Their ancestry includes: 

  • Filipino 
  • Indian 
  • Chinese 
  • Vietnamese 
  • Japanese 
  • Korean

Native Hawaiians And Other Pacific Islanders 

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders make up 0.4 percent of the population in the United States. Hawaii and Los Angeles County, California, have the highest concentrations of Native Hawaiians. The population of the United States is 1.2 million people. Multiracial people make up 56% of the population.

Their ancestry groups include:

  • Hawaiian
  • Chamorro
  • Tongan 
  • Samoan 

Two Or More Races 

In 2008, there were 7.0 million multiracial Americans, accounting for 2.3 percent of the population. By the 2010 census, the multiracial population had risen to 9,009,073, or 2.9 percent of the total. They can be White, Black, or African American, Asian, American Indian, or Alaska Native. Here are some specific combinations:

  • White and black
  • White and Asian 
  • White and Native American 
  • African American and some other race. 
  • White and some other race. 
  • African American and Native American 

Middle Easterners And North Africans 

Arab Americans have ancestors from each of the Arab League’s 22 member countries. The Census Bureau does not currently ask whether a person is Sikh because they are considered religious adherents rather than members of an ethnic group. The Census Bureau announced in January 2018 that they would not include the grouping in the 2020 Census. Their ancestry groups include:

  • Arab 
  • Iranian 
  • Jewish 
  • Armenian 

Other Races 

In the 2010 US Census, 6.2 percent of Americans, or 19,107,368 people, identified as “some other race.” A sizable proportion of the Hispanic and Latino population, particularly the Mexican and Central American communities, self-identified as Mestizo.

Hispanic And Latino Americans Of Any Race 

Hispanic or Latino Americans (of any race) are the country’s largest ethnic minority. They are the second largest group in the United States, after non-Hispanic Whites, accounting for 16.3 percent. Hispanic/Latino Americans are racially diverse and constitute an ethnic group rather than a race. Here are their national origins:

  • Puerto Rican
  • Cuban
  • Spanish 
  • Ecuadorian 
  • Salvadoran
  • Peruvian 
  • Guatemalan 
  • Mexican 
  • Dominican 
  • Honduran
  • Columbian 


A large fraction of Americans came to America as slaves. Many of them descended from people brought as slaves in the last five centuries. Despite its multi-ethnic makeup, American culture gets its recognition as “mainstream” American culture.

This post is an overview of ethnic groups in America and their different ancestry. 

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