A statement from CENTRO on OMB’s Revisions to capturing race and ethnicity

On March 28th, 2024, Dr. Karin Orvis, Chief Statistician of the United States, announced on behalf of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) via the White House Briefing Room new revisions on how OMB will capture race and ethnicity in the United States within the next 18 months

The changes are as follows:

  • Using one combined question for race and ethnicity, and encouraging respondents to select as many options as apply to how they identify.
  • Adding Middle Eastern or North African as a new minimum category. The new set of minimum race and/or ethnicity categories are:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native
    • Asian
    • Black or African American
    • Hispanic or Latino
    • Middle Eastern or North African
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    • White
  • Requiring the collection of additional detail beyond the minimum required race and ethnicity categories for most situations, to ensure further disaggregation in the collection, tabulation, and presentation of data when useful and appropriate.
  • The updated standards also include several additional updates to definitions, terminology, and guidance to agencies on the collection and presentation of data.”

Rather than resulting in more people, particularly those that identify as “Hispanic or Latino,” checking this box and the race category they see most fit, merging the ethnicity and race questions is likely to lead to a loss of information on ethnicity AND race for Hispanics and Latinos. Thus flattening “actual and intersectional racial disparities that exist within a racially diverse ethnic group like Latinos” (Afro-Latino Coalition).  

CENTRO’s Data Hub generates robust research and analysis using publicly available data, like the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies to provide information to scholars, policy makers and the general public. Combining the race and ethnicity fields will limit and change how we interpret data and paint an accurate picture of the impacts of education, poverty, voting, housing, healthcare access, and more in intersectional communities.

While it is important to investigate how our understanding of race and ethnicity continue to evolve in this country, it is also important to recognize that adequately capturing this data is intrinsic to understanding how these classifications affect intersectional communities. 

As the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and the foremost research institution in this field, we do not support the decision to make race and ethnicity co-equal categories within the next 18 months and the upcoming census in 2030. 

We have sent a letter to Dr. Karin Orvis, Chief Statistician of the United States, expressing our concerns. We have requested the Office of Management and Budget not recommend the combination of the race and ethnicity questions into a single questions to be used in any decennial census or surveys such as the American Community Survey or the Current Population Survey, and that it engage in additional research on wording that does not steer responses on ethnic and racial identification.