Mixed-Race Asians: Living with Multiple Ethnic Ancestries

Because the rate of interracial marriage continues to rise in the U.S., an increasing number of Americans are now multiracial, and they represent the future of ethnicity in our country. This is especially the case among Asian Americans, who have the highest intermarriage rate among all ethnic minorities in the U.S.

As a result, there is a significant and growing population of mixed-race Asians whose ethnic heritage is a mixture of various Asian and non-Asian ancestries. How are these mixed-race Asians perceived racially and ethnically, which of their multiple ancestries are the most prominent for their ethnic identities, and to what extent are they subject to different levels of discrimination and racism?

This project will help us understand how multiracial peoples of ambiguous ethnicity are positioned in American society and whether they challenge or reinforce pre-existing ethnoracial categories and hierarchies.

  Project Details

The number of Asians of mixed ancestry in the United States will grow considerably over the next several decades because of the continued increase in interracial marriage between Asians and other ethnic groups. Although most of them are half Asian/half white, others are a mixture of various Asian, white, black, Latino, Native American and other ancestries.

This project examines the ethnic experiences of these mixed-race Asians, who are becoming an increasingly important part of the Asian descent population in the U.S. The main research objectives are to understand: 1) How such people of ambiguous, multiple ancestries are ethnically perceived by others and whether they challenge or reinforce pre-existing ethnoracial categories; 2) How they negotiate and present their ethnic identities to others and the reasons why they may prioritize one part of their ethnic heritage over another; and 3) The extent to which they are subject to ethnic stereotyping as well as discrimination and racism, and how they are positioned in U.S. racial hierarchies that are based on white/black binaries.

The research is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a diverse sample of mixed-race Asians in Phoenix and other parts of the United States, participant observation in a multiracial student organization, and textual analysis of online forums and message boards.

  Research Team


This research project is currently open to funding opportunities. For more information, please reach out to the project contact listed above.


Preliminary results indicate that racial appearance has a significant impact on how mixed-race Asians are ethnically perceived and self-identify. Many affiliate more strongly with their Asian heritage compared to their other ancestries for various reasons. Those of lighter complexion report lower rates of stereotyping and discrimination compared to those of darker complexion, indicating that they have not escaped nor significantly challenged racial hierarchies based on skin-color.