A collection of civil servants convened by the Biden administration to rethink racial categories in the United States Census has proposed changes to how the census asks questions about race.

As reported by Forbes, most notably, the committee has suggested creating a new racial classification for Middle Eastern and North African individuals. The experts also recommended recategorizing Latino and Hispanic identity as a racial category.


These changes are among the recommendations recently given by a working group tasked by the Office of Management and Budget with rethinking the racial and ethnic categories that exist on the US census. The group also recommended additional changes for he 2030 census, including dropping the term “Negro” as an alternative to Black, as well as removing terms such as “minority” and “majority” to describe different racial groups.


The current census lists a handful of broad racial categories, including American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, Black, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and White. Many of these categories allow for alternative labels, such as “African American” or “Negro” for Black. Others break down the categories into various nationalities or sub-groups; for instance, the Asian category includes options such as Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and more. However, various scholars and advocates have argued that these categories are inadequate, inadequate or needlessly confusing.


Currently, no separate category exists for individuals whose origins lie in the Middle East or North Africa, also known as the MENA region. Many of these individuals are technically considered white by the rules of the census and other government classifications. For years, however, Arab American activists have objected to the white labeling, arguing that it does not reflect their actual experiences in the United States and that it makes it difficult to gather data about their communities. Activists have welcomed the proposed addition of a MENA category as a way to make their communities more visible.


Similarly, Hispanic and Latino activists have taken issue with the way their identities have been classified.

The current census lists Hispanic or Latino identity as an ethnicity, which is considered a separate category from race, giving individuals the option to identify as Hispanic or Latino and to choose from among the various racial categories.

While this allows for the recognition of multifaceted identities, such as Afro-Latino, many people have argued that this system is needlessly confusing and causes people to accidentally misidentify themselves when filling out the census.

This confusion may contribute to undercounting of Hispanic Americans on the census; Black Americans also tend to be undercounted according to recent research. It is also contradictory to the definition of both race, “the group or groups that you may identify with as having similar physical traits that are regarded as common among people of a shared ancestry,” and ethnicity, which is “something you acquire based on where your family is from and the group which you share cultural, traditional, and familial bonds and experiences with.”

This is per Merriam-Webster, which states, “people may have racial similarity but ethnic dissimilarity.”

The recommendations giving by the working group will now be evaluated. The OMB will spend several months gathering opinions from the public about the proposed changes. Any new or changed racial categories will be implemented beginning with the next census in 2030.