The Biden administration is taking steps that could change how the U.S. census and federal surveys produce racial and ethnic data that is used for redrawing voting districts, enforcing civil rights protections, policymaking and research.
The multiyear process is likely to carry out long-awaited data policy changes that will particularly affect how Latinos and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent are counted in statistics around the country.
In a blog post released Wednesday, Karin Orvis, U.S. chief statistician within the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the federal agency is starting a new formal review of the government’s standards for statistics about race and ethnicity to help ensure they “better reflect the diversity of the American people.”
The goal, Orvis added, is “completing the revision no later than Summer 2024,” which would be months ahead of the next presidential election and in time for any changes to be incorporated into 2030 census plans.
“I understand the importance of moving quickly and with purpose. It is also important that we get this right,” Orvis said in the post, noting that the process will include gathering input from federal agencies and members of the public.
A little-known part of the federal government, OMB is in charge of determining how the Census Bureau and all other agencies can ask about a person’s racial and ethnic identities, as well as defining the checkboxes found on surveys.
First set in 1977, OMB’s standards for racial and ethnic data were last revised in 1997 and have influenced how surveys across the U.S. generate demographic statistics.