A growing number of Americans identify as multiracial, and there’s evidence to suggest that by 2050 as many as one in five Americans might claim a multiracial background.

This demographic shift changes the social work environment and demands the development of multiracial competence. Social workers who understand the complexities and concerns of multiracial people are better equipped to work with America’s increasingly diverse cultural populations. Here’s how social workers can ensure they treat multiracial clients with respect, empathy, and understanding.

Our Multiracial Nation

Pew Research Center estimates 6.9 percent of the U.S. adult population could be considered multiracial. This corresponds to increases in immigration and interracial contact, and the rise in interracial marriage.

Multiracial Family being counseled by a social worker.

It is important to consider that multiracial people, like other racial minorities, have typically experienced some type of racial discrimination, from racial slurs to physical threats, because of their racial background or their perceived racial presentation to others.

Researchers Kelly Jackson and Gina Samuels say multiracial people “may be at greater risk to experience discrimination, use drugs and alcohol, engage in violent behaviors and struggle with mental health problems when compared with their non-multiracial peers,” which could result in an increase in the number of social work clients who identify as multiracial. 

This has significant implications for social work practice and intervention, from micro-clinical to macro-political realms. Social workers are charged to identify and address disadvantaged, oppressed, and underserved populations, and do so with a blend of humility, fortitude, and conviction.

How To Develop Multiracial Competence

Opportunities as a social worker in this field depend on multiracial competence and an ability to address race through a lens of cultural humility and awareness. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) asserts that social workers should develop skills in areas such as ethics and values, leadership, self-awareness, cross-cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills, empowerment, and advocacy.

Multiracial Competence Training

Educating social workers about multiracial competence, culturally attuned practice and fostering general awareness about multiracial communities before they enter the field is key to ensuring they support people with respect, empathy, and understanding.

A social work degree is the obvious and best method to develop multiracial competence and a growing number of employers are seeking social workers with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Many of these programs include NASW policies and standards in their curricula and offer courses on cultural competency to ensure graduates are equipped to serve America’s growing multiracial population and operating from the standards and values of the social work profession and code.

To find out more about a Master’s of Social Work degree and the benefits it could bring to your career, visit our Find an MSW Program page.