Census ready to study combining race, ethnicity questions

May 6, 2022, 12:53 AM | Updated: 2:50 pm
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving le...

FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)

(John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)

U.S. Census Bureau officials said Friday they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnicity questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category to the 2030 census questionnaire, but they have to wait for another federal office to start the conversation.

That office is the White House Office of Management and Budget, which sets the definitions on race and ethnic background for all federal agencies. The Census Bureau has been using Office of Management and Budget standards which were set in 1997.

If the proposals are adopted for the 2030 census, they would mark one of the biggest changes to the census questionnaire in recent years.

Several years before the last census in 2020, support was growing for combining the race and ethnicity questions into a single question and adding the Middle Eastern and North African category, also known as MENA. Census Bureau research said doing so would increase the accuracy of the once-a-decade U.S. head count, particularly among Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent who are unsure how to answer the race question.

But those efforts were dropped after President Donald Trump became president. As a result, there was no MENA category, and the race and ethnicity questions were separated on the 2020 census form, leading to overwhelmingly large numbers of Hispanic respondents to answer “some other race” for the race category, Census Bureau officials said.

“We are not surprised by the results. Our research predicted them,” Merarys Rios-Vargas, chief of the Ethnicity and Ancestry Branch at the Census Bureau, told members of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Friday.

One of the committee members, Helen Hatab Samhan, a retired executive at the Arab American Institute, said it was preferable to add MENA as an ethnic category, such as Hispanic, rather than a race category like white, black, Asian, American Indian or Native Hawaiian.

Among the items the Census Bureau wants to research is the lack of responses to the race question among Hispanics, how Hispanics identified their race when they did answer the question and whether the location of the respondents made any difference in whether they answered those questions, officials said.

Once the conversation with the Office of Management and Budget gets going, it will be “jump-started” because the Census Bureau already has a trove of research, Census Bureau Director Robert Santos told committee members.

The census data are used for allocating congressional seats among the states, redrawing political districts and distributing federal funding.

In a statement on Friday, the Office of Management and Budget didn’t provide a timetable for when it would examine the issues raised by the Census Bureau.

“We are actively working to help ensure the Federal statistical system efficiently, effectively, and accurately captures the diversity of the American people,” the statement said.


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
15 hours ago
UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) shoots while defended by Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton (45) in the first half...
Associated Press

Gonzaga beats UCLA 79-76 in Sweet 16 on Strawther’s shot

Julian Strawther hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3-pointer by UCLA's Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild 79-76 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Officials: Safety device, human error derailed Wash. train

A safety device failed, knocking a train off the tracks last week, spilling diesel after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes.
15 hours ago
File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
2 days ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
2 days ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Census ready to study combining race, ethnicity questions