A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story

A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story

by

Susan Graham for Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally)

Everyone knows about the U.S. Census Bureau (CB), but not everyone has heard of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CB counts important things in the United States, including people—by things like race and ethnicity. The OMB decides what race and ethnicity people can be in the United States. They are both bad cops. Sometimes they try and play a game called Bad Cop/Good Cop, in which they go back and forth trying to get the public to place blame on the other. The 2020 Decennial Census is only a few years away. Planning for it takes a great deal of time and actually began as soon as the 2010 Census results were made public.

The CB recently released its recommendations for approval by the OMB. Project RACE had attempted to have input into both the CB and OMB by letting them know how we wanted the multiracial population to be listed, counted, known, treated, etc. The CB pretended to be the Good Cops and pretty much said they cared what we had to say. OMB played the Bad Cops and would not return our calls, email, letters, etc. or answer our questions.

I will cover some of the more salient requests and salacious responses to revisions to OMB’s Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Most of the items had nothing to do with the multiracial population, so first I’ll cover those that did. It’s a very short list.

  • In addition to people being able to check all of their races, we gave many examples of how to include the term “multiracial,” which is very important. Correct wording in race and ethnicity is very important, particularly for children. Just ask the people who were once “Colored,” then “Negro,” then “Black,” and now “African American.” Yes, terminology is important. However, CB and OMB will not call the multiracial community “multiracial.” We were denied even though they were taking “Relevance of Terminology” into consideration. For the next ten years, we will remain the “two or more races.”
  • Some people write in “multiracial,” “biracial,” “mixed” or some other term instead of checking the little boxes. They should be put in the category of what is called “two or more races.” They are not. They will be placed in the “Some other race” category. They will not be multiracial. Denied again.
  • It appears that the way the race question is asked is important, although not important enough to use the wording that our community wants. What they have decided is this. Drumroll please. Instead of instructing people to “Mark all that apply,” we will be instructed to “Select all that apply.” That’s what we got. We’ll know when we see our 2020 Census forms.

Project RACE is not recommending that our members bother to write further comments to the Census Bureau or the Office of Management and Budget at this time.

_________________________________________________

So there we have it. If you’re interested, a few other interesting things having less or nothing to do with the multiracial population were put forth for further input. Well, not really. CB and OMB have actually already decided on the following points, but they very quietly put out a Federal Register notice for comment.

  • A new category will be added for Middle Eastern or North African people. The acronym is MENA. You can be a MENA person or you can still report more than one. By the way, Israelis are now Middle Eastern. If I had been checking say “White” for my entire life, but was now given the choice to be MENA, I would probably check white and MENA, but that’s just me. They still don’t seem to know if a MENA will be a racial or ethnic category.
  • The Subgroup proposes that OMB issue specific guidelines for the collection of detailed data for American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White groups for self-reported race and ethnicity collections. However, the Subgroup plans to continue its deliberations as to whether OMB should require or, alternatively, strongly support but not require Federal agencies to collect detailed data. If you know what this means, please let me know.
  •  Should it use the NCT format, which includes separately Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese? If neither of these, how should OMB select the detailed Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander race and ethnicity categories? Apparently, these small populations are more important than the multiracial population.
  • Relevance of Terminology: The Subgroup proposes that the term “Negro” be removed from the standards. Further, the Subgroup recommends that the term “Far East” be removed from the current standards.
  • The Subgroup proposes further clarifying the standards to indicate the classification is not intended to be genetically based, nor based on skin color. Rather, the goal of standards is to provide guidelines for the Federal measurement of race/ethnicity as a social construct and therefore inform public policy decisions.
  • The Subgroup also considered whether referring to Black or African American as the “principal minority race” is still relevant, meaningful, accurate, and acceptable. Given that many of the groups classified as racial and ethnic minorities have experienced institutionalized or State-sanctioned discrimination as well as social disadvantage and oppression, many consider it to be important to continue identifying the principal minority group in Federal data collections and reporting systems. However, it is not clear if the referent groups should change given changing demographics. Whew!
  • Should Hispanic or Latino be among the groups considered among “principal minorities”? Would alternative terms be more salient (g., “principal minority race/ethnicity”)? Hispanic or Latino usually is considered an ethnicity while “minority” is usually used when referencing race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Census Considers No Races

Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all

2020 Census Question
Possible 2020 census race/Hispanic question for online respondents, who would click to the next screen to choose more detailed sub-categories such as “Cuban” or “Chinese.” Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity.

Census forms now have two questions about race and Hispanic origin. The first asks people whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and states that “Hispanic origins are not races.” A second question asks, “What is this person’s race?” and includes a list of options with checkboxes and write-in spaces. The U.S. government defines Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.

The problem with using the word “race” is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from “origin.” The agency’s focus group research found that some people think the words mean the same thing, while others see race as meaning skin color, ancestry or culture, while origin is the nation or place where they or their parents were born.

2010 Census Question on Race and Ethnicity
2010 census form asks about race and Hispanic ethnicity separately. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau’s owndefinitions of race andHispanic origin, which follow government-wide rules from the Office of Management and Budget, sometimes appear to overlap. A white person, for example, is defined as someone “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.” Hispanic is defined as a person of “Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a fluid product of many influences. “We recognize that race and ethnicity are not quantifiable values,” the Census Bureau said in a 2013 report. “Rather, identity is a complex mix of one’s family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, personal experience, context, and many other immeasurable factors.”

In test-census forms to be sent to 1.2 million respondent households later this fall, the bureau will test the impact of alternative question wording that drops all mention of “race” or “origin” and asks: “Which categories describe person 1?” People then can choose from the list of races and origins. The National Content Test also will test combining the Hispanic and race questions into one, in part because many Latinos believe that Hispanicity is a race and do not identify themselves as white, black or another standard racial group.

The content test also will experiment with adding a new Middle East and North Africa category. The test represents the bureau’s final major research effort before locking down its proposed 2020 questionnaire wording.

The bureau’s Federal Register notice published last month invited comments on the proposed test. The agency’s plans received some positive feedback at the March meeting of its National Advisory Committee of outside experts.

“I’m very happy that they are going to test a question which gets away from the language of race and ethnicity because frankly that is just a quagmire, that language,” said Ann Morning, an advisory committee member and New York University race scholar. “No two people seem to be able to agree on what those terms mean.”

In follow-up comments in an email, Morning said she believes “the beauty of simply referring to ‘categories’ is that it avoids that problem of people getting hung up on the terminology. So I would expect this term will allow people to answer the question more quickly, and to feel more free to check more than one box if they wish, and to lead to a lower non-response rate on that question.”

Census Bureau Race InteractiveIf adopted, the changes would add to the long list of revisions over time in the way the decennial census has asked about race, which has been included in every count since the first one in 1790. Until 1960, Americans did not choose their own race on census forms; enumerators did it for them. Racial categories have changed extensively through the decades, and question wording also has been revised.

The word “color,” not “race,” was used in census-taker instructions and some census forms in the 1800s. The word “race” appeared for the first time in 1880 enumerator instructions that talked about “color or race,” and the use of both terms continued on census forms or instructions through 1940. The term “color” was dropped from the 1950 census form, but returned on the 1970 census form.

The word “race” was not included in the 1960 census or 1980 census. Instead, the forms asked, “Is this person­ –” and listed the racial categories.

Source: Pew Research

 

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The Census Bureau did WHAT?!

The Census Bureau did WHAT?!

Today I received a very serious looking government envelope from the United States Department of Commerce marked “OFFICIAL BUSINESS.” It came to my home address, not to Project RACE. This is personal.

Apparently, the Census Bureau has chosen me to complete a very important national survey called the American Community Survey (ACS). Think of it as an annual census, but only for about three million people. I am one of the chosen few.

This is particularly ironic and even funny because I have been trying to make some headway with the ACS folks for 25 years. They won’t answer my questions about race and ethnicity on their surveys. They refuse. Yet, legally, I must answer the ACS or something terrible, including being fined or jailed, can happen to me if I don’t answer.

I think it is only fair that they must answer my questions, too. If they don’t, they should at the very least lose their jobs. This just doesn’t seem equitable and like a fair business practice. It sounds like the Census Bureau at work as usual and no, it’s not right. But, as usual, I’ll play fair even though they won’t.

Susan Graham

LETTER TO THE MULTIRACIAL COMMUNITY

An Open Letter to the Multiracial Community

by  Susan Graham for Project RACE

I spent two days recently involved in a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. Call them NAC, as in they have a knack, except they don’t. I had my usual reaction to their meetings. I’ll explain to you how they go.

They start with almost three hours of opening remarks, executive remarks, and a short 2020 Census update. They pat each other on the back and tell everyone what they and others did during the last six months when they last met. I intentionally skip the first three hours, so I’m already ahead. OK, now down to some real work. Oops, it’s lunch time!

After lunch, everyone was ready for a siesta, but there was work to be done. Presenters came up to the front of the room with their slideshows in hand. One woman made a very strong point of saying things like “we use actual people!” and “….again, real people.” Lest we forget about the fake people they must use to project inaccurate data.

What stood out for me was that everyone there was supposedly a hand-picked expert on race and ethnicity and was there to speak of group issues. However, they all drew on their own races or ethnicities. From the long-haired woman who talked about Hawaiians, to the white woman staunchly advocating for American Indians, to the slow-talking man who represented the MENA (Middle Eastern North African) group, they each pushed their own agenda.

The problem for the multiracial population is that there was no one there to represent us. I always expect to see at least someone else from the multiracial groups there, but no—never. Eric Hamako, who was on the NAC at one time, did nothing when he was there and even less since. The Internet is filled with groups that claim to represent multiracial people, so where are they? By the way, Project RACE not only spent two days listening, but sent a statement, which was disseminated to all the committee members.

It is beyond me how the Census Bureau holds a two-day meeting on race and ethnicity and says so little. I don’t know how or why they do that. I do remember one thing I heard from Nicholas Jones, Census Bureau Race Guru, “We have ongoing dialogue with OMB.” I’m glad they have that ongoing dialogue, because we sure don’t. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is staying very quiet and all we know is that this committee and the Census Bureau will have their recommendations to OMB sometime in 2016.

Then what happens? This is very important. The multiracial population has one last chance to get our recommendations heard by OMB. One last chance. OMB and NAC have already received over 4500 letters from the MENA community. The only way to let OMB and the Census Bureau know that we want them to use the respectable term “multiracial,” is to have a letter writing campaign. Unless we, the multiracial community, can pull together, as we did in the 1990s, and come to some way to do this thing together, don’t count on any letters. That would truly be a shame.

Some individuals in the multiracial community do not understand what the government has to do with race and ethnicity, and why we should worry about a box on the census form. As one individual said about multiracial people in one group, “ They are more concerned about checking off a box under the term “multiracial” rather than being concerned about the practical implication of that. I for one do not need a box on the Census to validate my identity.” Checking a box on the census is not meant to validate racial identity. This poor fella is so mislead. Many people who came before him and laid the groundwork for multiracial gains would be turning over in their graves to see how he has twisted the meaning and work of the multiracial advocacy.

I don’t care all that much about the boxes on the census, which happens every ten years. It’s what happens between those years and how the boxes affect people’s perceived identity that matters. When OMB decides on racial categories and nomenclature, it does so for each and every government agency. It affects the forms that are used not only by the Census Bureau, but when we apply for jobs, finance our homes and our cars, drive, go to the hospital and on and on. It affects dollars our communities get and the terminology other people use to describe us, especially our children. Every minority group in America “gets” how important it is, even though one multiethnic person in Southern California obviously doesn’t get it.

Therefore, I am stating that Project RACE will work with any organization or individual to add the term “multiracial” in some way to the 2020 Census. All you have to do to receive important notifications is put yourself on the email list at our website www.projectrace.com. It’s up to you now.

 

FYI-Official Business

Below are the abbreviated comments from Project RACE in response to the current Federal Register notice regarding the 2020 Census. The comments were submitted on January 14, 21015. We are awaiting confirmation notification. Staying current with the planning for the 2020 Census and drafting responses to official notices is just one of the things Project RACE does for the multiracial community.

 

January 14, 2015

Re: Comments on 2015 National Content Test

Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) respectfully submits the comments below regarding the 2015 Optimizing Self-Response and Census Tests. We are the national advocates for multiracial children and their families. We are often rendered invisible by federal agencies in the discussions and planning for racial and ethnic classifications. We are concerned with ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected in the 2020 Census regarding race and ethnicity.

As you know, the 2000 Census partially accommodated multiracial respondents by allowing us to check more than one racial box. The request by the multiracial community to use the preferred term “multiracial” was denied then and for the 2010 Census. As a result, multiracial respondents who checked more than one race are called “MOOMs” (Check One Or More), “Two or More Race People,” or “In Combination” respondents for purposes of tabulation. Tabulation wording does influence common usage because it is a descriptor of the total numbers.

OMB advised federal agencies to utilize “in combination” in its guidance for federal data on race and ethnicity in December, 2000. However, there has been much confusion about the nomenclature since 1997 when OMB specified, “When the primary focus of a report is on two or more specific identifiable groups in the population, one or more of which is racial or ethnic, it is acceptable to display data for each of the particular groups separately and to describe data relating to the remainder of the population by an appropriate collective description.”

Our requests for utilizing the word “multiracial” on the federal forms has been denied, even though it is important for multiracial children to see a descriptive word for themselves that is correct, respectful, and accurate. We work with many schools, medical facilities, clinical trials, etc. that do use the term “multiracial” on the forms with these directions: If you are multiracial, you may select two or more races. We would like to see testing of this wording on the instructions for the 2020 Census. Census Bureau personnel have indicated that will not happen. We have not been given any reason and our suggestion was not tested.

The instructions for indicating a person’s races are critical to the clarity of the category, which can affect the total numbers of people across all racial classifications. The multiracial population needs assurance that we will not lose numbers based on how the question is asked. “Mark X one or more boxes” proved to be confusing. Our hope is that the testing of “Mark all boxes that apply…note, you may report more than one group” will prove more effective for the multiracial population.

It would be very meaningful to the multiracial population if the appropriate term is at the very least used for tabulation, replacing “in combination.” Ironically, the Census Bureau often uses the term “multiracial” when discussing this population and in presentations, but not in its “official” data collection. If you seek clarity, the term “alone” should be dropped or changed to “racial,” and the term “in combination,” should be changed to “multiracial.” To give an example, consider that the decisions of the OMB and Census Bureau are often reflected by the media. When we see a racial and ethnic pie chart in a newspaper or Internet story, we want to see the multiracial community represented as “multiracial,” not “combination people” or “other.” Both OMB and Census personnel know perfectly well that proper nomenclature is extremely important when used to describe race and ethnicity, yet it is completely disregarded when it comes to only one population group—multiracial.

Additionally, it is reprehensible that OMB Bulletin No 00-02, Guidance on Aggregation and Allocation of Data on Race for Use in Civil Rights Monitoring and Enforcement (March 9, 2000) sets forth racially insensitive instructions in its EEO Enforcement instructions, whereby a person who checks more than one race is assigned to one of their minority races. Discrimination is often the result of a person designating more than one race, and to be reassigned to one race only defeats the purpose of enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, we see cases where multiracial children are bullied because they are multiracial, and they have no protection in that eventuality under the OMB guidelines.

We ask that these issues be revisited in testing for the 2020 Census. Changing “in combination” to “multiracial” would mean government acceptance of a word that is very widely used by non-governmental entities. It would also indicate sensitivity for proper nomenclature that is given to other racial groups, which we have been asking for since 1990. Any consideration that can be given to this demographic group that is rapidly and substantially increasing would be appreciated by the multiracial community.

 

Sincerely,

Susan Graham

Executive Director

Project RACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Worthy Demographic?

A Worthy Demographic?    

The United States Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) do not believe a multiracial community exists. We know this because try as we might to get federal recognition, it just won’t happen.

For example, the Census Bureau put out a news item called “Profile America Facts for Features—American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2014.” They do this every time a demographic group worthy of their acceptance celebrates its existence with a certain month. Multiracial people do not have a special month. We do have a rather significant “Multiracial Heritage Week” in June, but it goes totally unnoticed by the Census Bureau and OMB.

Could this be because we don’t have the same noteworthy amount of people—otherwise referred to as demographics—as, in this case, American Indian and Alaska Natives (AIAN)? Let’s see. The AIAN population was about 5.2 million in 2013. I can’t compare apples to apples here because the exact number of the multiracial population in 2013 would take until 2020 to find on the Census Bureau website. So, let’s just round it off like they do and report that the number of people who checked more than one race on the 2010 Census was about 9 million. Hey! That’s more than the AIAN population and they got a fancy report. We know that the multiracial population has increased, not decreased, so it’s pretty safe to say that we have almost twice as many people as they do. Not fair.

By the way, do you remember when their category on the U.S. Census used to be Alaskan Natives? With the “n” on “Alaskan”? I do. The “n” got dropped in 1997 because Alaska had a pretty politically savvy Senator who did not like the “n,” so it was killed. Yes, just like that the Census Bureau changed everything to read “Alaska Native” because OMB told them to. Gosh, we’ve been asking for a multiracial classification and playing by the rules for 35 years now. Wish we had a Senator….

Now let’s look at OMB. We have a history with them, too—just not a future apparently. We dealt with them in the 1990s when we were asking for our own category. We worked directly with the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). They are the ones who decide who is what, racially and ethnically, in the United States. The race buck stops there. We had meetings with them, answered Federal Register notices, shared our thinking with them, and did all the right things. Yes, they did give us the ability to check more than one race for the first time in history, so we apparently did the right things, but they refuse to adopt the words multiracial or biracial. They call multiracial people “combination people.” Sometimes they refer to the “Two or More Race” population. Yes, the TOMR folks. We are also called MOOMs,” which stands for Mark One or More. I think that since they can’t easily shorten “multiracial,” they will never sanction its use. Sigh.

But the 2000 and then 2010 Census’s have come and gone and now we are on to the 2020 Census. I recently tried to find out who we should be dealing with at OMB, since our old contact had left her position. It’s not easy to find out who works for us. It took months, but I finally found him. I wrote him a letter, explained who we were and why the OMB Standards on Race and Ethnicity are important to our group. With the letter was a copy of our response to a Federal Register notice. I also asked for a response. A response? What was I thinking? That was over three months ago and no response has been forthcoming, which is government speak for they are ignoring us.

Now it’s not just a brand new year, it’s only five years until the next decennial census, which is not a lot of time. So perhaps we can wipe the historical slate clean and start getting some answers from the people in the federal government who work for us. Maybe, just maybe, one day soon we’ll get a fancy report about our demographic group—make that multiracial.

Susan Graham

Executive Director

Project RACE

 

 

 

 

 

Important CENSUS Information

Important Census Information

 Today I attended a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. It was an important meeting for the multiracial population because recommendations were made for future testing for the 2020 CENSUS.

I was able to have a letter to the committee included in the meeting records and was given the opportunity to give a very brief oral statement to the committee. This was the statement I gave on behalf of the multiracial population:

 Meeting Comments

Susan Graham, Project RACE

 Only one item concerning the multiracial population was addressed in the handouts from the March meeting: multiracial respondents are not always aware they have the option to select more than one race. I will address solutions for this item in my allotted time, and ask you to also read my written letter to this committee in full, which addresses additional issues.

The instructions for race selection on the AQE and 2010 Census were the same:

Mark (x) one or more boxes.

Project RACE works to ensure that multiracial children and our families have forms that reflect appropriate, respectful, and dignified terminology. Concise and very simple, we do not disturb any data or cause any changes in tabulation. We have had extremely positive feedback for our preferred instructions, which are:

Mark one. If you are multiracial, you may select two or more.

In the 1990s, we were advised by OMB to choose one word to describe people who are of more than one race. We agreed on the same word along with other advocates. That word was “Multiracial.” Yes, times change, nomenclature changes, public preferences change, but the preferred term is still Multiracial. It is not “Mark Two or More Races” people, or the “Race in Combination” population.

Some possible changes are being tested in the race category, one of which is to add the Hispanic/Latino option. The instructions could then be:

Mark one. If you are multiracial or multiethnic, you may select two or more.

Isn’t America truly becoming multiracial and multiethnic? Why not use accurate and respectful terminology beginning with the 2020 Census? Project RACE urges you to include our model in further testing.

 

Census CHANGES

U.S. Census looking at big changes in how it asks
about race and ethnicity

 

proposednewcensusrace
Experimental question combines race and Hispanic ethnicity.

The Census Bureau has embarked on a years-long research project intended to improve the accuracy and reliability of its

race and ethnicity data. A problem is that a growing percentage of Americans don’t select a race category provided on the

form: As many as 6.2% of census respondents selected only “some other race” in the 2010 census, the vast majority of whom were Hispanic.

Six percent may seem small, but for an agency trying to capture the entire U.S. population (nearly 309 million in 2010) every 10 years,

that number results in millions of people unaccounted for. This pattern of response led to the bureau’s “most comprehensive

effort in history to study race and ethnic categories,” according to Census officials Nicholas Jones and Roberto Ramirez.

Increasingly, Americans are saying they cannot find themselves” on census forms, Jones said.

Many communities, including Hispanics, Arabs and people of mixed race, have said they’re unsure of how to identify

themselves on census forms.

2010censusrace
Current Census form asks about race and Hispanic ethnicity separately.

The 2010 Census form asked two questions about race and ethnicity. First, people were asked whether they are of Hispanic,

Latino or Spanish origin. Then they were asked to choose one or more of 15 options that make up five race categories — white,

black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. A separate question about Hispanic

origin has been asked of all households since 1980, and the census form specifically instructs respondents that Hispanic origins are not races.

To address concerns about a rising share of “some other race” selections, a combined race and ethnicity question is under

consideration for 2020, in which people would be offered all the race and Hispanic options in one place. They could check

a box to identify as white, black, Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian

/Other Pacific Islander or some other race or origin. They would be offered a line under each category to supply more detail

about their origin, tribe or race. Examples of this include: German, African American, Mexican, Navajo, Asian Indian and Samoan.

The Census Bureau’s goal is to reduce the number of people who select “some other race.” The category was added to the 1980

Census form to capture the small numbers of people who did not select one of the official race categories, and has grown to become

the third-largest race category in the census, Jones said in a presentation this week to Pew Research Center.

In the 2010 census, many Hispanics were unsure which box to check in the race question. Hispanics accounted for more than

18.5 million of the 19 million people who checked “some other race” to describe themselves.”

As the bureau has conducted experimental surveys and focus groups with a new approach to writing the race and Hispanic

questions, some Latino groups have voiced concern that eliminating the separate question about Hispanic origin would result

in a decrease in the number of Hispanics counted by the census. However, that did not happen in the experimental survey collection,

according to the Census Bureau. Because census data is vital to determining everything from how congressional districts are

drawn to $400 billion in federal aid programs and enforcement of civil rights laws, the prospect of having one race or ethnic

group’s numbers change is fraught with political consequences.

The bureau is continuing to research changes to the question wording. Agency officials intend to meet with Hispanic advocacy

groups this spring and others interested in potential changes to the race-Hispanic questions to get feedback. It plans to test a

combined race and ethnicity question on its Current Population Survey next year and on its American Community Survey in 2016.

But a lot of work remains. Questionnaire changes would have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which

determines and defines the race and ethnicity categories. Any proposed topics must be submitted to Congress by 2017.

Question wording is due to Congress the following year.

Here are some more detailed findings from the Census Bureau’s Alternative Questionnaire Experiment presentation:

  • Combining race and ethnicity into a single question did not result in a reduction of the proportion of the population identifying as Hispanic.
  • Among those who identified as Hispanic, however, there was a decline in the number of people who wrote in a specific origin group.
  • For Hispanics, the decrease was driven by people of Mexican descent, according to census officials.
  • The selection of “some other race” declined to less than 1% of respondents when race and ethnicity were combined into one question,
  • according to results cited by census officials. The category was chosen by as many as 7% when race and ethnicity were asked in the
  • experimental and standard variations of the two-question form.
  • The proportion of people who did not respond at all to race and ethnicity questions also declined in the experiment.
  • About 1% percent did not answer the combined question. When the questions were separated, 3.5% to 5.7% did not respond to the
  •  race question and 4.1% to 5.4% did not respond to the Hispanic origin question.
  • Despite concerns that the combined question would lead to less data about Afro-Latinos, the proportion of Hispanics
  • who also reported as black was not statistically different in the separate-question or combined-question format, bureau officials said.
  • The bureau will soon release more detail about this and other race reporting by Latinos.
Source: Pew Research

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