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JLeslie's avatar

What do you think about the US Census combining race and ethnicity and adding North Africa and the Middle East?

Asked by JLeslie (65485points) 1 month ago

The new lists both ethnicity and race in one section. The categories are:

- American Indian or Alaskan Native
– Asian
– Black or African American
– Hispanic or Latino
– Middle Eastern or North African
– Native Hawaiin or Pacific Islander
– White

Previously, Hispanic/Latino was a separate ethnicity question, not listed within the race categories, and Middle Eastern was not a specific category on its own, it was just listed as white.

Do you think people will read the directions and check off all boxes that apply, or more likely just check one box? Do you like that they added Middle Eastern and North African to the highlighted groups? Do you predict the new set up will shift the demographic percentages in the country due to people answering differently because of how the question is arranged? Do you think it will be more accurate or less or no change in accuracy compared to previous years?

Here is a link if you have interest in reading more about it. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2024/04/updates-race-ethnicity-standards.html#:~:text=Among%20the%20biggest%20updates%3A%20directives,of%20the%20SPD%2015%20updates.

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12 Answers

Zaku's avatar

I’m curious how they arrived at that list. Is that really the complete list?

As listed, it seems to reflect a very USA-laws/politics-oriented mindset, to me.

I see in the document linked, that they seem to be trying to second-guess the behavior of people filling it out, to get them to check multiple boxes more often (which makes sense), and to not just use the Some Other Race box.

I can understand being confused/annoyed by it and just using the Some Other Race box.

If you’re from middle Africa, should that be Some Other Race?

If you identify as “Swiss” and not “White”, and/or are offended by the whole categorization, should you put Some Other Race?

If “Middle Eastern” was previously “White”, and is now “Middle Eastern or North African”, that’s going to make the data going forward not really compatible with previous data. It’s such a messy situation.

I don’t envy the people trying to figure out what to have the form say.

Demosthenes's avatar

I think it’s reflective of the fact that race and ethnicity are not rigid, scientific categories and are quite nebulous and often a matter of personal identity. The definition of “white” has changed many times throughout American history and will likely change again.

JLeslie's avatar

@Zaku Previously, someone from the Middle East would usually check the White box and then list the country they are from, Lebanon, Iran, etc, while the Swiss person would check the white box and list Switzerland, German, whatever applies to them. There are boxes for “other” also, if a person feels none of the categories fit them.

elbanditoroso's avatar

What will an Israeli jew pick? Probably not Middle Eastern.

JLeslie's avatar

@Demosthenes I don’t think the definitions have changed much, not at the government level, just maybe how the questions are asked. Not since I was a kid in the 70’s anyway. I remember learning in class, Black, white, Polynesian, Asian, it hasn’t changed much. The current categories are not a change from what was asked in 2020 just how they are asked.

My first reaction to seeing the list is my Jewish paranoia reaction of targeting Middle Easterners. My less paranoid reaction, is I think a lot of people will only choose one category, and we will go back to when Latin Americans didn’t check a race box, but rather only checked the Latin American box, or they might only check a race box and not put that they are Latin American.

My husband in 2020 was Latin American (Mexican) and race White and I filled in Israel, France, and Spain. I think I listed Israel, my Jewish paranoia had me going back and forth on it. His answer now would be Latin American, Middle Eastern, and White I guess, but in both answers 2020 and the new list, it is all the same in the end for race and ethncity.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Maybe Middle Eastern, but maybe not if they are 100% Ashkenazi. Then maybe just White and list the European countries their family is from. It is up to the individual in the end how they identify themselves.

filmfann's avatar

I have been perplexed since they had Latino/Hispanic as a subcategory of White. When referring to Hispanics (not on a form), they are usually referred to as Brown.

Demosthenes's avatar

Which is ridiculous. I’m Hispanic and I have light skin and blue eyes; we’re called “brown” because of a conception of what most Hispanics look like. Hispanics can be black, brown, white, anything. There are many Japanese Peruvians. What would they choose on their ethnicity survey? This is what I mean by nebulousness. When I was in middle school the kids said you were either “white” or “Mexican” and the two could never overlap. Lol.

@JLeslie I’m speaking of conceptions of whiteness and who gets to call themselves “white” changing over the course of history, not just in how these questionnaires are formulated. These categories are not based on genetic science; they’re the categories that are of most use to the American government. The government clearly doesn’t think “Middle Eastern” falling under the umbrella of “white” is useful.

JLeslie's avatar

In my opinion Brown is a media creation. I guess in some ways all race descriptives are just creations. The US census doesn’t have a brown category.

@Demosthenes I didn’t catch that they removed Middle Eastern Countries as examples for white. Interesting. My Jewish paranoia is still there, and in that I include paranoia (which means concern) for Arabs and Muslims. Why separate them out?

Strauss's avatar

I think there should be a “prefer not to respond” option.

JLeslie's avatar

@Strauss People can write whatever they want. There is an “other” category. Luckily, in the US we fill out our own census. People might not realize that sometimes someone else is deciding what you are, like at the hospital it sometimes happens.

I am always conflicted about the census. I like looking back at old census information for genealogical research. Records for Black people are often very incomplete and it is actually a sad situation for their descendants who want information. Census data I was able to see my grandfather lived with his sister for a while and some other info I never would have known.

Plus, here on fluther we look up stats for what the population was like through history, and the census provides it. The other side of the coin is my paranoia and also not wanting to divide people into categories.

gorillapaws's avatar

This is one of those areas where I recognize that there are very important ramifications from this decision, but that I’m entirely unqualified to form an educated opinion on it. My inclination would be to defer to the appropriate academics who study these things to determine whatever system creates the most equitable distribution of resources such that everyone has the most neutral playing field.

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