The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on proposed updates to its race and ethnicity standards:
Among the proposed revisions are combining the race and (Hispanic/Latino) ethnicity questions, creating a new Middle Eastern and North African category, “defaulting” to disaggregated or more granular data categories for each race and ethnicity, and updating terminology, e.g., discontinuing the use of the terms “majority” and “minority”. These OMB data standards have not been updated since 1997.
The proposed revisions carry forward OMB’s 2017 proposal to require disaggregation of the top six most numerous populations in each race and ethnicity (and the next three most numerous populations as examples for an “other” category for each race and ethnicity), which was consistent with the findings of optimal/highest response rates from the 2015 National Content Testing conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in preparation for Census 2020. OMB had already sought public comment on this proposal in 2017 and received largely supportive comments.
This updated proposed revision would allow federal departments and agencies to opt out of this “default” if they determine that “potential benefit of the detailed data would not justify the additional burden to the agency and the public or the additional risk to privacy or confidentiality”. Under this proposed revision, any federal department or agency could easily “determine” that there would be additional expense and burden to change data collection instruments and storage mechanisms to collect and store the disaggregated data. There is no consideration for the benefits to the impacted populations from continuing to be invisible and overlooked. Moreover, using the term “default” rather than unequivocal mandatory language will likely result in uneven adoption, and the lack of comparability across numerous federal datasets.
Public comments are due within 75 days, or by April 12, 2023.