The US Census Bureau counts people by race: white, black, Asian, and so on. Statistics Canada counts people by "visible minority status" - we don't like to mention words like "race" or "white" up here.
The other day I found myself wondering - if Canada used American racial categories, how would the demographics of the two countries compare?
The above table shows how Canadian visible minority categorizations match to US racial groups. The mapping from one to the other is not precise. In the US, information on race is gathered from the question shown on the right.
There is no category for Arab or West Asian, and it's not clear how people of these origins answered the Census question. In 2010, a group of Arab and Persian Americans launched a check it right campaign, urging people to "check the "other" box on the census form and write in their true ancestry." Unfortunately, this was a somewhat futile gesture, as according to the US census documentation write-in entries such as "Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian" are coded as white. As far as I can make out, unless an Iranian or Afghani identifies themselves as "Asian" (which some might have done), they are included in the white count.
Latin Americans provide another challenge. Many have some mix of European, Aboriginal and African ancestry. The best that I could do was to assume that Canada's Latin American population has the same mix of whites, Aboriginal people and blacks as the US Hispanic population, and allocate Latin Americans across the appropriate categories.
The final result of these calculations is shown in the table below. The "white" figure for Canada is most comparable to the US "single race" figure, whereas the figures for American Indians, Asians and Blacks are best compared to the US "including multiple races" figure, as they include people with European ancestry. It's important to bear in mind that the National Household Survey was a voluntary survey, and its coverage of various demographic groups appears to be somewhat uneven, the numbers should be interpreted with care. [Updated]
There are no big surprises here. Canada is a whiter country than the US. We have a much larger Asian population and a much smaller Black population. Interestingly, Aboriginal Canadians are a substantially larger share of Canada's population than American Indians are of the US population.
These facts have a couple of policy implications. First, relative to the US, Canadians need to focus more on policies to support Aboriginal people's economic success, in part because they are a relatively more important part of our labour market, especially in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the North, and in part because they face so many struggles.
Second, an employment equity or affirmative action policy targeting "minorities" will work out quite differently in Canada and the US. In the US, the minority population is largely made up of Blacks and non-white Hispanics. In Canada, it is predominated by Asians. Research by Mikal Skuterud (here) and Krishna and Ravi Pendakur (here) has documented the enormous heterogeneity in visible minority experiences in Canada. Policies that are appropriate for one group, such as language training and credential recognition for recent immigrants, may be less helpful or necessary for others.
Basically there's nothing really profound or deep here. I just wanted to know.