Hyperdescent is the practice of determining the lineage of a child of mixed race ancestry by assigning the child the race of his more socially dominant parent.

Hyperdescent is the opposite of hypodescent (the practice of determining the lineage of a child of mixed race ancestry by assigning the child the race of the more socially subordinate parent). Both hyperdescent and hypodescent vary from other methods of determining lineage such as patrilineality and matrilineality.

Examples of hyperdescent Edit

  • Brazil is an example of a country with a history of European slavery of black Africans somewhat analogous to that of the United States of America. However, while for black Americans, hypodescent became the dominant rule for determining lineage, in Brazil, the practice of hyperdescent was followed. Thomas e. Skidmore, in Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought explains that many of Brazilian elite encouraged a national process of "whitening" through miscegenation. Skidmore writes, "In fact, miscegenation did not arouse the instinctive opposition of the white elite in Brazil. On the contrary, it was a well-recognized (and tacitly condoned) process by which a few mixed bloods (almost invariably light mulattoes) had risen to the top of the social and political hierarchy.” p. 55*
  • Hyperdescent is the rule in the rest of Latin America as well. The mestizo populations of Latin America usually consider themselves to be of European culture rather than American Indian. This is also apparent in the United States, where the practice of hypodescent is the rule among the non-Hispanic population contrasting with hyperdescent among the Hispanics. Nearly half of U.S. Hispanics called themselves "white" in the 2000 Census, along with 80% of the population of Puerto Rico. Non-Hispanics, on the other hand, if they are of mixed race, will usually call themselves white only if they are a small fraction (1/8 or 1/16) American Indian, but otherwise will claim being of mixed race or even of the minority race. The upshot of all this is that the white non-Hispanic population is well over 90% of European ancestry, whereas the white Hispanic population is largely in fact mestizo and other mixed races.


  • Christine B. Hickman, "The Devil and the One Drop Rule: Racial Categories, African Americans, and the U.S. Census," Michigan Law Review, Vol: 95, March, 1997, 1175-1176.
  • Ian F. Haney Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (NY: New York University Press: 1996)
  • Thomas e. Skidmore, Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought (Durham: Duke University press, 1993

See alsoEdit

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Hyperdescent. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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