U.S. Officials Order Better Tracking of a Political Flashpoint: America’s Diversity

The Biden administration ordered changes to a range of federal surveys on Thursday to gather more detailed information about the nation’s ethnic and racial makeup.

The changes — the first in decades to standard questions that the government asks about race and ethnicity — would produce by far the most detailed portrait of the nation’s ancestral palette ever compiled. And a new option will be available for the first time allowing respondents to identify as part of a new category, Middle Eastern or North African ancestry.

But the changes also have the potential to rankle conservatives who believe that the nation’s focus on diversity has already gone too far.

An American Puzzle: Fitting Race in a Box

Census categories for race and ethnicity have shaped how the nation sees itself. Here’s how they have changed over the last 230 years.

The revisions, released after 21 months of study and public comment, apply not just to the Census Bureau, but across the government, to forms as varied as the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey and applications for Social Security cards. They take effect this month, but federal agencies will be allowed years to fully implement them.

Current surveys contain a separate option for people of ethnic Hispanic and Latino descent to claim that identity, followed by another question that offers multiple options for respondents to choose one or more races.

Back to top button