What you need to know about race and ethnicity category changes on federal forms

What you need to know about race and ethnicity category changes on federal forms
via Enayet Raheem on Unsplash
Michelle De Pacina
11 days ago
The U.S. government is updating its categorization of race and ethnicity for the first time in 27 years to more accurately reflect the population. 
Key points:
  • On Thursday, the Office of Management and Budget announced changes to how the federal government collects race and ethnicity data, including adding a new Middle Eastern and North African category. 
  • The updated directive will also require federal agencies to differentiate among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups when collecting data.
The details:
  • The revision, which comes as the result of a years-long effort, aims to create more accurate federal data and enhance understanding of demographic diversity. It addresses evolving social attitudes and immigration patterns and provides individuals with the opportunity to self-identify more accurately. 
  • Federal agencies have 18 months to submit an action plan and are expected to implement the new standards within five years. 
  • The US Census Bureau has commended the new rule and will begin reviewing and developing plans for implementation. 
  • Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus also hailed the changes as a “historic milestone” for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities, emphasizing the importance of recognizing disparities within these groups.
New standards for AAPI:
  • Under the updated directive, forms will include expanded options beyond the umbrella terms Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.
  • For the Asian category, users will be able to choose from options such as Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese or another specified group (for example, Hmong, Pakistani, Afghan, etc.).
  • Similarly, the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander category will offer more specific choices like Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese or another specified group (like Chuukese, Palauan or Tahitian).
  • The specified groups listed are based on the highest population counts from the 2020 census. As for the “another group” option, agencies are encouraged to include “write-in boxes” to allow individuals to further specify their ethnicity. 
  • These changes are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing racial equity and inclusion through improved data collection and research efforts to better reflect the needs and priorities of AAPI communities.
Concerns surrounding the changes:  
  • While AANHPI organizations have welcomed the new guidelines, they also expressed disappointment that the regulations do not mandate the collection of additional Southeast Asian ethnic data, like Cambodian, Lao and Mien.
  • Similarly, the nonprofit Arab American Institute praised the inclusion of the Middle Eastern and North African category but expressed concerns about the exclusion of Black Arabs and Armenian Americans. 
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