Native American Demographics

While Native Americans were the indigenous people of North America, originally encompassing the only population on the continent, Native American demographics are very different today. When classifying Native American demographics in terms of race, the US census employs “other” as a category for identifying one’s race as Native American. However, other demographic information is collected specifying Native American as being a descendent of any original people of North America and maintaining a tribal affiliation today.

The 2003 United States Census Bureau reported approximately 4 million Native Americans living in the US with somewhere in the vicinity of one-third living in California, Oklahoma, and Arizona. The largest tribes by population in the United States are Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Sioux, Chippewa, Apache, Lumbee, Blackfeet, Iroquois, and Pueblo. The Cherokee Nation has the greatest single population. Approximately 80% of Americans with Native American ancestry reported being of mixed heritage in 2000, but that percentage varies in different statistical studies.

There are currently 562 federally recognized Native American tribes. Native American demographics further conclude that the majority of these tribes are located west of the Mississippi River. The eastern states containing federally recognized tribes include Florida, Maine, Michigan, and New York. There are an estimated 245 tribes that are not federally recognized, but continuing to submit paperwork to attain recognition. Some of these 245 tribes are recognized by the state, though not federal, governments.

Native American demographics concerning income level report that approximately 25% of Native Americans are below poverty, which is statistically on par with other races, however as a demographic group, Native Americans rate a higher percentage of uninsured populations than other races. Over half of the Native American population report owning their own home.

In terms of income, some studies conducted on Native American demographics reveal that they are the second-highest earning minorities behind Asians, with an average median income of just over $30,000 USD. Income demographics play a large role in the advertising field and estimates on behalf of Native Americans living off reservations in terms of spending power is estimated at near four billion dollars. Advertisers are continually exploring minority, including Native American, demographics to increase product sales for a variety of companies. However, tobacco companies aim advertising at Native Americans for different reasons; Primarily because the reservation population is distanced from the anti-smoking campaigns of mainstream America and because self-governing reservations do not adhere to the same laws regarding sales of tobacco products to minors.

Native American demographics pertaining to education reflect that roughly 75% of Native Americans have a high school diploma and 14% report earning at least a Bachelor’s degree. Approximately 125,000 report having an advanced degree. In terms of health care, studies of the Native American race indicate that Native Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes, lung cancer and heart disease as other races. Most health experts believe this in part due to the lax laws on tobacco products on reservations.

Joseph Paige 2006

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