- Recommendations from the Office of Management and Budget include new categories for the US Census.
- It includes categories for Middle Eastern and North African people previously considered white.
- Advocates have been fighting for these changes for years over the issue of undercounting.
The Biden administration is pushing for changes to the way Census data on race and ethnicity is collected, including for Middle Eastern and North African people.
The proposed changes come after years of reviews on the way the US Census Bureau collects its data. Last year, President Joe Biden continued the review effort after former President Donald Trump’s administration stalled on decisions regarding the implementation of proposed changes for the 2020 census, NPR reported.
Proposals released Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget on its race and ethnicity statistical standards show, among other changes, a “new and distinct minimum reporting category” for MENA people, who are classified as white under current data collection standards, which were set in 1997.
The proposal would also alter the definition of white to only include people of European ancestry.
The document notes that civil servants advocated for this new category because “many in the MENA community do not share the same lived experience as White people with European ancestry, do not identify as White, and are not perceived as White by others.”
The new MENA category would also help with allocating resources to these groups, the document notes.
A MENA category was supposed to be added to the 2020 census, but the bureau announced in 2018 that would no longer be the case until further research on the categories was done.
Groups have long advocated for a distinct MENA category in the Census to combat underreporting by Middle Eastern and North African groups, whose numbers are obscured in the broader “white” definition and who may be wary of checking off the “white” category based on personal identification.
Another major change in the proposal would be the addition of “Hispanic or Latino” in the race category, and adding more specific ethnicity categories, such as Colombian, that people can fill out on the form. Some presenters in the OMB working group, however, disagreed with this proposal, saying that it would result in the undercounting of Latinos who identified with other races, such as Afro-Latinos.
Other proposed changes to race and ethnicity data collection include the removal of “Negro” from the definition of Black or African American people, replacing “Far East” with “East Asian,” and the addition of Indigenous North, South, and Central Americans to the definition of American Indian or Alaska Native.
The group also proposed getting rid of the terms majority and minority to refer to white people and people of color, respectively.
The OMB will not make a final decision on the proposals until the summer of 2024 but is currently seeking public feedback on the proposal.
The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.