OMB Decision on Race Delayed

Trump Administration Delays Decision On Race, Ethnicity Data For Census

The 2010 census form included separate questions about race and Hispanic origin. The White House has yet to announce its decision on a proposal that would allow race and ethnicity to be asked in a single, combined question on the 2020 census.

A major decision on the way the U.S. government collects information about race and ethnicity through the census and other surveys was expected to be announced this week by the Trump administration.

But the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which sets standards for this type of data for all federal agencies, was silent on Friday, which OMB had said was the deadline for an announcement.

A spokesperson for OMB could not provide any information about the delay.

Under consideration by the White House are proposals introduced during the Obama administration that would fundamentally change how the government counts the Latino population. Another proposal would create a new checkbox on census forms and other federal surveys for people with roots in the Middle East or North Africa. If approved, the policy changes could have significant implications on the upcoming 2020 census, as well as legislative redistricting, civil rights laws and health statistics.

“[The delay] tells me the new administration has taken an interest in the possible changes … and wants to way weigh in,” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House oversight subcommittee for the census who now consults on census issues.

First issued as a White House Office of Management and Budget directive in 1977, the federal standards on race and ethnicity data largely have stayed the same for the past two decades. The last major revisions were announced in 1997, when the Clinton administration decided to allow recipients of the census and other federal surveys to check boxes for more than one race.

Sally Katzen, who oversaw the 1997 revisions as the administrator of the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, says decisions by federal agencies often take more time than anticipated.

“There is no date certain for decision-making,” Katzen says. “The objective in each instance is to arrive at the right decision, not at any old decision.”

An announcement by early spring would help the Census Bureau prepare its report to Congress on the final wording of the 2020 census questions. That report is due by the end of March 2018.

But the timing of the Trump administration’s announcement is ultimately in the hands of the White House, which has been reviewing research by the Census Bureau on the changes’ potential impact, as well as public comments, and recommendations from an advisory group of experts from various federal agencies.

Some census watchers are concerned that delays could impact preparations for the 2020 census already underway.

“The later the decision is released, the more uncertainty continues as far as how the census is going to proceed with its format for collection of race and ethnicity data for 2020,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, which supports the proposals to change the standards. “Given all the moving pieces and all the uncertainty about funding and leadership [at the Census Bureau], it doesn’t help when there’s uncertainty with this major part of data collection.”

The Census Bureau has not responded to a request for comment on the impact of the delay on the 2020 census.

To prepare for the upcoming census, researchers at the bureau started studying how to improve collecting race and ethnicity information in 2010. One of the main goals has been to address confusion among many Latino census recipients, who left the race question blank or selected “some other race” — the third-largest racial group reported in 2000 and 2010.

The researchers’ findings suggest the proposals could improve the accuracy of the 2020 count by combining the two census questions about race and Hispanic origin required by the current federal standards into one combined question, with “Hispanic or Latino” as an option for both race and ethnicity. This change, however, would likely shrink the white count on the upcoming census.

“If OMB has decided not to proceed with the major revisions that the career staff has developed in concert with the Census Bureau over the course of the decade, I think that really pulls the rug out from under a great deal of painstaking scientific research that has also cost taxpayers a lot of money since 2010,” says Lowenthal, a consultant to The Leadership Conference Education Fund, which supports the proposals.

A report released by the federal advisory group earlier this year pointed to concerns about how the changes could impact state governments, schools and hospitals that may or may not follow the federal standards for their own record keeping.

“Inconsistency between self-reported [federal] survey information and reporting on administrative records results in discrepancies between major sources of information for the [nation], which could be made worse by changing the standards,” wrote the advisers of the Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity.

The White House could decide to reject the proposals and keep the status quo — or propose different changes to the standards for race and ethnicity data. But Cary Coglianese, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who directs the Penn Program on Regulation, says any decision would be limited by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“To the extent that an administration were to show racial animus and to make decisions about the statistical classification or the questions on surveys that relate to race in a manner that was motivated by racial animus, that would be clearly illegal and unconstitutional,” Coglianese says.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

April 19, 2017

Comments on Proposals From the Federal Interagency Working Group for Revision of the Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity

Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) is the national organization advocating for the multiracial community. Our population requires changes in the racial and ethnic classifications in this country so that we are counted correctly and accurately for research, making and enforcing laws, redistricting, school data, etc., but also for medical reasons. We have no idea what the health risks are for our population because we have not been included on forms requiring health information. These are matters of life and death. To that end, we are commenting on the Proposals From the Federal Interagency Working Group for Revision of the Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,

In order to maintain our confidence in Federal statistics, our recommendations will address the multiracial population, which is also called “two or more races” and we hope will be taken under consideration by the OMB.

We are in favor of the combined format, as outlined by the Federal Interagency Working Group, because it is inclusive and provides for equitable and balanced results for our population. Testing for the 2015 National Content Test (NCT) by the Census Bureau showed, in fact, that there was consistency for multiracial individuals with this method. It did reduce reporting of Some Other Race, which we address below. It also appears to better reflect self-identity, which is critical to the multiracial population.

The salience of terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications and other language in the standard are critical to our community, and should have been addressed by the working group. Specifically, it is crucial that instructions are included in every instance where racial and ethnic data are collected as follows: Paper collection: Mark all boxes that apply. Note: You may report more than one group. Online collection: Select all boxes that apply. Note: You may report more than one group. These formats are the only way we can be assured that our respondents will, in fact, know they can check two or more races. These formats have been tested during the NCT by the Census Bureau and have been shown to offer the best guidance for and assurance of the most accurate resulting numbers. The new instructions increased the rate of consistency of multiple-responses when compared to the old instructions. We strongly recommend this critical approach to ensure that our population, which is often seemingly forgotten by the OMB, be counted as accurately as possible.

We also recognize problems with “Some other race” or “Other” categories and the multiracial population. If someone writes in “multiracial,” “biracial,” or “mixed,” for example, they should be tabulated and reassigned to the “two or more races” category. “Some other race” was the third highest category on previous decennial censuses, which caused much confusion and resulted in an undercount of the multiracial population. Federal agencies other than the Census Bureau commonly utilize some type of “Other” category and proper guidance should be provided by the Federal Interagency Working Group.

It is our hope that our suggestions will be taken seriously by OMB in its review of Federal Register Comments. Thank you.

Susan Graham for the members of Project RACE

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israelis to be Middle Eastern

Yesterday the US Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) handed down their recommendation for a new race and ethnicity classification in the US: Middle Eastern and North African (MENA). This means that every Israeli in the US who formally was classified as White will be Middle Eastern. -Susan Graham, Project RACE

New Head of OMB Confirmed

New Head of OMB Confirmed

 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is the part of the federal government that decides on racial and ethnic categories, not the U.S. Census Bureau. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina was tapped to be the new head of OMB by President Trump, who held a news conference today (February 16. 2017) and said, “And also as you probably heard just a little while ago, Mick Mulvaney, former congressman, has just been approved weeks late, I have to say that, weeks, weeks late, Office of Management and Budget. And he will be I think a fantastic addition.” We will just have to wait and see.

MASC DID WHAT?!

MASC Did WHAT!

I have a lovely wood recognition plaque in my office given to me in 1995 from the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC). It hangs right under a letter to Project RACE and the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans also dated 1995 and signed by President Bill Clinton. We were known then as MASC, Project RACE, and AMEA. MASC apparently no longer advocates for the multiracial community, Project RACE does, and AMEA is defunct. A great deal has happened in the past 25 plus years. Not all of it is good.

I will forever defend the work of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), but most of you know the history of the multiracial movement, so I won’t go back over that now. Suffice it to say that different organizations went different ways, but we all—or at least it seemed—wanted some form of recognition for the term “multiracial.” We were making progress. AMEA fell apart. Hapas moved on. MAVIN couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and the founder disappeared. The academics saw a way to “get published or perish” and began publishing papers and books like crazy with or without actual facts. Podcasts popped up, Loving Day gained momentum, and even comics took their best shots at us. We somehow endured. Project RACE kept doing what we did in 1990 and advocated for a multiracial identifier on racial classifications. We won some; we lost some.

Now it’s 2016 and decisions must be made by 2017 for the 2020 census. It must be done quickly for many reasons, which is why OMB issued a 30 day notice instead of the usual 60+. One more chance to take our best shot.

Then a few weeks ago the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government people who decide on race and ethnicity in this country published a notice in the Federal Register, that obscure publication that half-heartedly asks for public opinion, suggesting that John Q. Public let them know what they think of the proposed plans. They laid out (as best they could) these areas under consideration:

  1. Whether to continue to have one category for Hispanic origin and one for race, or one combined answer;
  2. Have a distinct new category for respondents of Middle Eastern or North African heritage (MENA);
  3. The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories; and
  4. Terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications.

Look back at those areas of consideration. Number 1 has been on the table for years and it is already a done deal. Number 2 has been in contention since before the multiracial question even came up, but it’s become a messier MENA category than previously. I’m not sure what number 3 even means completely.

Then…BINGO! Number 4 gives us a chance to bring up terminology again.

Project RACE jumps on the terminology question, gathers our members and supporters, and starts our answers to the open comment period! We gain momentum and wait for other “multiracial groups” to join in. MASC. The MULTIRACIAL Americans of Southern California stuns us. They openly advocated for number 1, the Hispanic race/ethnicity question.

Thomas Lopez is the president of MASC. He strongly favors Hispanics becoming a race instead of an ethnicity on forms. There are many reasons for the combined question to be considered. There are still organized groups fighting for it and the MENA question. Lopez glosses over consideration 4 with this: “In a combined question format this would simply be another version of ‘Two or more races.’” This would have been the perfect place to advocate for multiracial wording—for an acceptable, respectful term for our children. What were Lopez and the board of directors of MASC thinking?! Apparently, they should change their name to:

The Hispanic and Two or More Races Americans of Southern California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Response

Below is a letter sent in response to a Federal Register entry. Your advocates at Project RACE read the Federal Register daily and respond when necessary for the multiracial community. 

 

December 20, 2013

 

Stephanie Valentine

Acting Director

Privacy and Information Collection Clearance Division

Privacy, Information and Records Management Services

Office of Management

United States Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW, LGJ Room 2E105

Washington, DC 20202-4573

 

Submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal

 

Re: Comments on Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection

Docket ID Number ED-2013-ICCD-0079

Proposed 20113-14 Civil Rights Data Collection

 

 

Dear Acting Director Valentine:

Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) respectfully submits the comments below regarding Civil Rights Data Collection. We are the national advocates for multiracial children, teens, adults, and our families. We were founded in 1990 to represent those of us who are affected by Washington, but are not a large lobbying entity. As a result, we are often rendered invisible in the discussions and planning for racial and ethnic classifications. Our national members and supporters are therefore concerned with the Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection.

Our recommendation is very simple. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) includes a classification of “Multicultural or Multiethnic or Multiracial” under “the major racial and ethnic groups states use for accountability and assessment data.” Yet the Department of Education (DOE) does not list “Multicultural or Multiethnic or Multiracial” in its racial and ethnic choices stated under “The general racial ethnic categories that most clearly reflect individuals’ recognition of their community or with which the individuals most identify.” Their list includes “Two or more races.”

First, there should be consistency between agencies. Second, the preferred terminology used most by the multiracial community is “multiracial.” We would alternatively be inclined to accept some form of the OCR’s “Multicultural, Multiethnic, or Multiracial.”

Many school districts have also adopted the following wording on their forms: “If your child is multiracial, you may select two or more races,” followed by the specific racial and ethnic list of categories in compliance with their state departments of education. This is the suggested wording provided by the multiracial community.

It is vitally important for students to be able to be included in civil rights categories and be equally protected under civil rights protections. It is time to recognize our multiracial students in our schools and give them the dignity of proper terminology as an important   part of their civil rights protection.

 

Sincerely,

Susan Graham

Executive Director

Project RACE, Inc.

 

 

 

New Head of OMB Nominated

OMB decides how racial and ethnic categories will be defined in our country. -Susan 

President Obama nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Walmart Foundation, as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Mathews was deputy OMB director under Clinton, when she “presided over three budget surpluses in a row”, Obama said.