On first hearing about the projected nonwhite majority, many people probably form a mental image that looks roughly like this: 4 whites, 2 Hispanics, 2 Blacks, 1 Asian, and perhaps one “other.” As the preceding discussion explains, however, the picture is much more complex. The majority of minorities will not consist of people who are 100% Latino, 100% Asian, 100% Black, 100% Native American or 100% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (the official census categories). Rather, the majority of minorities will include people of numerous shadings of color. The United States is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, not only because of the changing relative sizes of the five large groups, but also because of the growing internal diversity within each group as the sizes of their mixed portions swell. Diversity is increasing within individuals as well as among groups.

Alba reports numerous analyses using census data, birth certificates and surveys to describe the increasing occurrence of mixed marriages and the children who are products of such interracial and interethnic unions. Mixed marriage rates have steadily increased and the ongoing census will likely report that nearly one in five new marriages now are mixed. Fully 80% of these marriages are between a white American and a minority. About 40% of these involve a white and a Hispanic, with Asian-white unions at 15%. The upshot is that 40% of Americans report having a close relative who is married to someone of another racial group.

Given rising interracial marriage rates, these numbers will continue to grow.