Story at a glance
- The Biden administration is looking to overhaul the census and expand the existing categories for race and ethnicity.
- It would also work to prohibit the term “Negro” from being used as a substitute for Black.
- Proposals to change the census span administrations.
The Biden administration is reportedly considering changing the language in the U.S. Census to collect better demographic information and improve data collection.
The revived proposal was initially pitched during the Obama administration, but stalled under President Trump. NPR confirmed that the Biden White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will look into reviewing the racial and ethnic categories listed in the census documents.
Changes to the census stem from growing research suggesting many Americans do not find the categories in the census to be accurate of their racial identity.
“We are continuing to review the prior technical recommendations and public comment, and the extent to which those recommendations help advance this Administration’s goal of gathering the data necessary to inform our ambitious equity agenda,” Abdullah Hasan, an OMB spokesperson, said to reporters.
The current categories for race within the U.S. census consist of five groups: white, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A sixth category is the catchall, “Some Other Race.”
One of Biden’s earlier proposals included creating a new category: Middle Eastern or North African (MENA), to better reflect the diversity of the Black or African American population. An expansion of more Hispanic and Latino identity categories is also proposed to include people of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican and Salvadoran descent as prefilled options.
Critically, the Biden overhaul would formally prohibit federal forms from using the term “Negro” as a category — an option still technically legal today based on 1997 OMB recommendations.
Multiple reviews have noted that the term is likely to be “outdated and/or offensive” to some populations, thus recommending its removal.
A previous campaign also worked to expand the categories of Asian identities and races, with a specific focus on adding the Taiwanese identity to the census categories.