FBI agents take first steps to revise racial and ethnic terms

The federal government is taking initial steps to revise racial and ethnic classifications in census and census forms for the first time in a quarter-century, following calls for more accurate categories for self-identification of individuals when collecting federal data.

The revisions could open the door to changes that proponents have long wanted. These include a new category for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent who are currently classified as white, and efforts to make categories less confusing for Hispanic participants.

The US chief statistician said in a blog post Wednesday that her office is beginning a formal review of the racial and ethnic classifications maintained by the Office of Management and Budget, which were first outlined in 1977 and have not been revised since 1997.

The purpose of any changes to the standards will be to better reflect the diversity of the US, said Karin Orvis, the chief statistician appointed to the position by the Biden administration earlier this year.


The review will be completed by the summer of 2024, according to the chief statistician, after gathering input from government experts across agencies and public feedback. That date would be months before a presidential election that could halt all revisions if there is a change in administration. Momentum to change classifications increased in the years leading up to the 2020 census, but halted after then-President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

“I understand the importance of being quick and focused,” Orvis said. “It’s also important that we do it right.”

Not only do the categories help paint a portrait of America’s demographics, but they are also used to enforce civil liberties, voting rights, and employment discrimination laws. Under current classifications, race and Hispanic origin are separate categories in census forms and surveys.

Some advocates have pushed for combining the questions about race and Hispanic origin, saying the way race is categorized often confuses Hispanic respondents who are unsure how to answer. exams by the Census Bureau in the 2010 census showed that combining the questions resulted in higher response rates.


The need to change current standards is evident in the 2020 census results, which include the category “some other races”. surpassed African Americans as the nation’s second largest racial group. The “another race” category consisted mostly of Latinos, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund.

“Right now, the Census Bureau knows there is a fundamental flaw in the way it collects data. It’s confusing and distorts the true nature of our nation’s diversity,” Vargas said. “For the Latino population, the current construct is flawed in allowing Latinos to identify themselves as Latinos and through racial category.”

Proponents are also pushing for a Middle East and North African category, also known as MENA, for the once-a-decade census and other federal demographic surveys. The Census Bureau recommended adding a MENA category to the 2020 census form, but the idea was dropped by the Trump administration.


Several members of the US House of Representatives equated the lack of a MENA category with “the long-standing obliteration of a group of our fellow Americans.” a letter this week to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Census Bureau Director Robert Santos.

“OMB standards govern how our political institutions allocate material resources, political representation and research funds,” read the letter from 18 House Democrats, including Michigan’s US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, calling for growth and development for each minority community, particularly for those who have experienced historical barriers to meeting their basic needs and accessing support.”

Meanwhile, Asian communities have also asked for more nuanced details. Grouping Asians into a single racial category masks large variations According to proponents among various Asian groups.


Updating the categories has been a priority for many civil rights groups for years.

“We have called for urgency on this matter,” Vargas said. “We are encouraged that we are seeing a movement.”


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/16/feds-taking-first-steps-toward-revising-race-ethnic-terms/ FBI agents take first steps to revise racial and ethnic terms

Sarah Y. Kim

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