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US Census changes how it categorizes people by race and ethnicity

Story at a glance

  • The census will include checkboxes for “Hispanic or Latino” and “Middle Eastern or North African” starting in 2030

  • Revisions mark the first change to ethic and racial demographic collection since 1997.

  • Changes will apply to all federal collection of demographic data within five years.

The 2030 U.S. Census will include new race and ethnicity checkboxes for Hispanic people and people of Middle Eastern and North African descent, the Office of Management and Budget announced Thursday, a major change in how the government tracks demographics.

The change is the first to race and ethnicity categories in 27 years, and comes after years of criticisms that major racial and ethnic groups are left out of demographic collection.

The revisions change how the census will ask questions about race and ethnicity, combining the previously separate questions about race and ethnicity into one and including a new individual category for Middle Eastern and North African people. 

“Thanks to the hard work of staff across dozens of federal agencies and input from thousands of members of the public, these updated standards will help create more useful, accurate, and up to date federal data on race and ethnicity,” U.S. Chief Statistician Karin Orvis said in a statement. “These revisions will enhance our ability to compare information and data across federal agencies, and also to understand how well federal programs serve a diverse America.”

Demographic categories for the next census will include: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Middle Eastern or North African, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and White, the OMB announced.

In previous censuses, most people of Middle Eastern background were listed under the “White” category, and Hispanic people were considered an ethnicity, separate from race. People of North African descent did not have a clear individual category.

Thursday’s changes cap a nearly two-year process of collecting feedback from the public. More than 20,000 people gave comments for the changes, and the OMB held nearly 100 listening sessions across the country.

All federal demographic collection will reflect the new standards within five years at most, the OMB said, with changes being rolled out to government departments starting Thursday.

The OMB also announced it would create a new task force to regularly review how the collection of race and ethnicity data for future changes and to better reflect the changing demographics of the country.

Source: The Hill

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