CHN applauds Biden Administration’s new standards for collecting race and ethnicity data


March 28, 2024

Editor’s note: Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, on Thursday, March 28 issued the following statement in response to new guidelines that will improve the way Americans are counted.

The Coalition on Human Needs applauds the Office of Management and Budget for the revised Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity released today. These standards will significantly improve our understanding of our country’s diversity. The data collected using these standards will be far more accurate and will be used for everything from redistricting at the federal, state, and local levels, to ensuring equal opportunity and fair treatment for all students, to assessing differences in disease rates and health care for different communities, to ensuring equal access to federally funded programs and benefits.  This revision, the first since 1997, is long overdue.  

Our current data standards are woefully inadequate. In the 2020 Census, nearly 50 million people picked “some other race” either alone or in combination with other races because they could not find their race as an option on the form, making “some other race” the second largest racial category in the country after White. This is clearly absurd.  

CHN supports the new standards because they are based on careful research into how people view their race and ethnicity. We are pleased that OMB chose to design one question with expanded options, including the new MENA category, and to require agencies to collect disaggregated data beyond the seven minimum categories.  The new standards will allow people to identify themselves more accurately and find statistical information, for example their health risks for a particular condition, that more accurately applies to them. We also appreciate that, because OMB recognizes that people’s thinking about race and ethnicity changes over time, OMB has created a process for ongoing research into appropriate standards to provide timely review.  We urge OMB to consult broadly in conducting this research, including experts in child-serving organizations, since children are the most diverse of all age groups.  As part of this process, we urge OMB and statistical agencies to undertake research on how best to collect disaggregated data and what categories to include. 

Because this data has so many implications for meeting human needs, CHN will be tracking OMB’s progress on its commitment to support federal and state agencies to implement the new data collection and reporting quickly. The standards allow federal agencies up to five years, which seems excessive to us, although the standards do indicate that many agencies should be able to implement the new standards much faster. We are pleased that Office of the Chief Statistician plans to direct its efforts to help agencies collect and release data under these updated standards as quickly as possible. 

We also urge OMB to take steps to align racial/ethnic data collection across agencies, to facilitate joint applications for benefits across programs funded by different federal agencies. States have worked hard to develop single applications for applicants for a range of benefits from SNAP to Medicaid to TANF, and they should be able to implement the new standards in these unified applications without having to manage differences across agencies.  

CHN is one of the leaders of the Count All Kids Coalition which has posted an analysis of the projected changes in race and ethnicity of our nation’s children over the next 80 years. Children are the most diverse age group in our country and are steadily becoming more diverse each year; once the data collected under these new standards is available, we will have an even more accurate understanding of the true diversity of our population and our future.