On Thursday, February 16, the Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity, an inter-agency advisory group led by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), sponsored a (by invitation only) listening session to receive input on potential revisions to the current federal statistical standards for collecting race and ethnicity data. Dr. Jen’nan Read, the Sally Dalton Robinson Distinguished Professor and Chair of Sociology at Duke University, represented the Population Association of America (PAA) and Association of Population Centers (APC).

In her remarks, Dr. Read, whose expertise lies in the assimilation experiences of Arabs and Muslims in the United States and on the social determinants of U.S. health disparities, reiterated PAA and APC’s support for the Working Group’s proposal to create a combined race and ethnicity question and a new Middle Eastern North African race category. In addition, she addressed challenges that current standards present and encouraged the Working Group to consider changes that would provide disaggregated data regarding ethnic groups classified as “White.” She explained the increasingly complex U.S. White population and why more granular data are needed to understand how issues such as health disparities and poverty, for example, impact different subsets of the nation’s White population. To help ensure the quality and comparability of race and ethnicity data across federal data sets, Dr. Read also urged the Working Group to clarify the proposed instructions and prompts for respondents.

During the question-and-answer segment, members of the Working Group, which included representatives from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Transportation, asked Dr. Read to elaborate on ways in which the instructions and prompts could be improved. Further, she was asked if adding a country-of-origin question would provide useful detailed information.

In his closing remarks, the Co-Chair of the Working Group, Dr. Robert Sivinski, OMB Office of Statistical and Science Policy, thanked Dr. Read for her insightful presentation. He also urged PAA and APC members to respond to the current request for comments on initial proposals to revise the federal race and ethnicity data collection standards. He emphasized that all comments will be reviewed and considered carefully.

Comments are due April 12. PAA and APC are planning to submit organizational comments but hope that individual population scientists will share their views as well.

View Dr. Read’s slides here.

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