In a move to better reflect the diversity of the American public, the Biden administration is proposing major changes to its demographic data collecting practices that will affect how Latinos and those of North African and Middle Eastern descent fill out government surveys and the 2030 census.
Published Thursday, the proposal suggests that “Race” and “Ethnicity,” which are currently treated as two separated questions, be combined into a single question. It will also create “Middle Eastern and North African” as a new response category to the single “Race and Ethnicity” question instead of including those two places of origin under the race category of “White,” as they are currently treated.
The United States has been collecting race and ethnicity data since the first census in 1790, but in 1977, it produced a policy that mandates a standard classification of collecting, keeping and presenting this data, which hasn’t been updated since 1997.
The Office of Management and Budget has been working since June to develop changes to this policy amid criticism that its definitions no longer adhere to how Americans view themselves.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, a growing number of U.S. residents find the current race and ethnicity categories on government forms confusing or they wish to see their own group reflected on the questionnaires.
“Our research has found that over time, there have been a growing number of people who do not identify with any of the official OMB race categories, and this means that an increasing number of respondents have been racially classified as ‘Some Other Race,'” it said. “In fact, in 2000 and in 2010, the ‘Some Other Race’ population, which was intended to be a small residual category, was the third largest race group.”
This issue has affected how Latinos self-identify on the government forms.
The census report states that the primary reason why “Some Other Race” constitutes such a large portion of the U.S. population is because Latinos and Hispanics do not identify with any of the OMB race categories. Members of the Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern and North African populations similarly identify as “Some Other Race” for the same reason, it said.
The proposal on Thursday said its reason for suggesting “Race” and “Ethnicity” be combined into one question is to reduce confusion and reduce the number of Hispanic and Latino respondents marking “Some Other Race.”
Concerning creating “Middle Eastern or North African” as its own new category, the proposal states that many of such respondents do not view themselves as “White” and that there have been calls for more than three decades to separate it from that racial demographic.
The Biden administration is seeking input on these changes and the public will have 75 days from Friday when the proposal is officially published online to offer their suggestions.
“We are committed to a full, transparent revision process, guided by input from the American people,” Karin Orvis, chief statistician of the United States within the Biden administration, said Thursday in a statement.
“Your participation in this process will play a critical role in helping us improve the way federal agencies safely and accurately collect and use information on the race and ethnicity of our diverse America.”
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