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As houses sprang up, their neighbors turned out to be black families, white families and mixes of the two. The differences in the past did not matter in the present, they both agreed. Growing up in Victoria, Tex. Norwood said she was never quite sure what race to mark on forms, and she hardly ever saw people like herself.

The contour and the shade of the change are not uniform. Norwood and his wife, Patty Norwood, agreed.

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And she did. Peeples confided.

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The share of the multiracial population under the age of 18 in Mississippi is higher than its share of youth in the general population, suggesting that much of the growth in the mixed-race group can be explained by recent births. Sonia Cherail Peeples, who is black, met her husband, Michael Peeples, who is white, in the science building at the University of Southern Mississippi inwhen they were both students. Inthey bought the first home built on a developing street before any neighbors had even purchased lots. According to the census, multiracial people are more likely to live in neighborhoods that have a broad mix of races with a higher share of whites than those who identify as black alone.

But in Mississippi and in other states, some growth may also be a result of older Americans who once identified themselves as black or some other single race expanding the way they think about their identity.

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Friendship ensued, then a crush. With the Camp Shelby military base on its southern side and the University of Southern Mississippi as an anchor, perhaps it is not a surprise that Hattiesburg, a city of about 50, residents, and its surrounding counties would show rapid mixed-race growth.

Harrison County, south of Hattiesburg and home to the Gulf Coast cities of Gulfport and Biloxi, has the highest share of mixed-race residents in the state, according to the census. Unlike the Peepleses, Jeffrey and Patty Norwood did not seek a diverse neighborhood, but found themselves in one anyway. This suggests they enjoy higher socioeconomic status, Mr. Frey, the demographer, said.

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Norwood said. But there is one place where they know that old thinking patterns are being challenged: at their church. Freya sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution. But both Sonia and Michael Peeples are mindful that those few incidents are inificant in comparison to what generations endured. Some of these figures are not so much changes as corrections.

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He was in a serious relationship with a woman who was white and Asian. Still, for the Peeples family, there have been some testy moments. It was also against the law until Mississippi led the nation in the growth of mixed marriages for most of the last decade, according to Mr. And many here complain of enduring racial inequities.

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Officials have not yet announced a national growth rate, but it seems sure to be closer to 50 percent. Lingering Tensions Still, for the Peeples family, there have been some testy moments. The Norwoods have also experienced minor tensions. At one time, they ran a luggage company.

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Peeples, 29, said of dating Michael, I could marry this guy! Norwood, a native of Tupelo, Miss. A waitress at a restaurant might abruptly decide that she cannot serve their table. There was an uproar last year over comments by Gov. Haley Barbour suggesting that the civil rights era in Mississippi, with its sometimes fatal strife, was not that bad.

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He had been most recently coaching at a college in the culturally diverse area of Cajun Louisiana. Experts say there are some elements, like military service or time spent on a college campus, that lay the groundwork for interracial relationships. Changing Identities The share of the multiracial population under the age of 18 in Mississippi is higher than its share of youth in the general population, suggesting that much of the growth in the mixed-race group can be explained by recent births.

So he moved, married, and, with his wife, had a baby girl who was counted on the last census as black, white and Asian.

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Now they have two boys: Riley, 3, and Gannon, 5, who Mrs. Peeples added, noting that his mother has been hot and cold about the relationship over the years, accepting his new family, then sometimes pulling away for a while, only to return, drawn by her grandsons. Peeples recalled. In Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, the multiracial population increased by about 70 percent. Peeples, who has deep brown skin, remembered scolding the woman. And some are rankled that the state flag still contains a miniature version of the Confederate battle standard.

Peeples as though she was trying to snatch a white baby when she took Riley, who had blond curls, out of his crib in the nursery.

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But that has not been true. But on visits to Hattiesburgthe younger Mr. Norwood said he liked what he saw: growing diversity. Census officials were expecting a national multiracial growth rate of about 35 percent sincewhen seven million people — 2. After college, the couple moved to Denver, but eventually decided to return to Hattiesburg, where Mr. Peeples works at a local dairy.

Matthew Snippa demographer in the sociology department at Stanford University.


In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent, and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee. In states like California, Hawaii and Oklahoma, where people of mixed race already made up a ificant percentage of the total, the increases were smaller than in places like Mississippi, where there were far fewer mixed-race people to start with.

Frey said. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The pastor is white and the assistant pastor is black, and the creative arts pastor is Latino. Less than 45 years ago, marriage between blacks and whites was illegal, and it has been frowned upon for much of the time since. Peeples, a full-time homemaker.

In Hawaii, for instance — where the multiracial group s for 23 percent of the population, highest of any state — the growth since was In Mississippi, the most common mix is black and white — historically and today the two groups least likely to intermarry, sociologists say, because of the enduring social and economic distance between them. In North Carolina, the mixed-race population doubled. The times have certainly changed.