LOS ANGELES –  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced today a new directive to the 2030 Census and other forms that will introduce a combined race and ethnicity question.

The new Standards for Maintaining, Collecting and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity will allow many individuals to self-identify in a more accurate way and improve how data is collected. Unfortunately, today’s release is incomplete in important ways.

Please attribute the following statement on today’s announcement to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):

“The notion of an unchanging scientific concept of race is entirely outmoded; race and ethnicity are grounded in sociology and history.  As such, these concepts should be regularly reviewed and updated.  Today’s changes are long overdue; among other positive effects, they will eliminate the overuse of the ‘other race’ response by tens of millions of Latinos who felt left out by the previous format.

“From Hernandez v. Texas in 1954 to the SFFA case in 2023, the Supreme Court has too often rendered decisions on Latino civil rights that are influenced by racial ‘classifications’ of the Latino community that are at best ill-informed and at worst exploitatively manipulative.  This jurisprudence exemplifies how important it is that the OMB continue to work to get it right, building on and improving the positive steps taken today.”

Please attribute the following statement on today’s announcement to Andrea Senteno, MALDEF regional counsel, Washington, D.C.:

“The announcement of a combined question is a necessary first step to updating the collection of race and ethnicity data, particularly given the dramatic shifts in population in the U.S. since these standards were last revised in 1997.  Research showed that a single-question format improved data for the Latino population, and the new standards will now allow Latino respondents the opportunity to fully self-identify on federal data collection forms.  The new standards also importantly now provide for a Middle Eastern or North African ethnic category and require the reporting of more detailed race and ethnicity data.

“However, these changes needed to be accompanied by further research, outreach, and consultation with a broad cross-section of researchers, data users, and community stakeholders to ensure that the all populations are accurately and completely counted and reflected in federal data.  The new standards, unfortunately, raise a number of significant and urgent concerns.  The implementation of a combined question must provide ample signaling to respondents about how to answer the new question and elicit complete and accurate responses from all Latinos, especially Afro-Latino respondents.

“It is promising that the new standards establish the Interagency Committee on Race and Ethnicity Statistical Standards to continue research on many important questions.  This Committee must include a broad range of stakeholders, particularly members of the Afro-Latino community.”