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Managing an Identity Crisis: Forum Guide to Implementing New Federal Race and Ethnicity Categories
NFES 2008-802
October 2008

A Comparison of Existing and New U.S. Department of Education Race and Ethnicity Data Reporting Standards

As of December 2007, school districts and states are required to follow new standards in collecting individual-level race and ethnicity data, and in reporting aggregated categories to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Below is a comparison of existing1 and new2 standards.

Existing Federal Reporting Standards New Standards Outlined in ED's Final Guidance
Race and Ethnicity Categories
American Indian or Alaska Native Same (American Indian or Alaskan Native)
Asian or Pacific Islander Separate into two categories:
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Black or African American Same (Black or African American)
Hispanic or Latino Same, except that individuals are now asked to choose an ethnicity (Hispanic or Latino or not Hispanic or Latino) as the first part of a two-part question, as well as race(s).
WhiteSame (White)
Individual Data Collection Format
Respondents are to select one of the five racial and ethnic categories above. The category that most closely reflects the respondent's recognition in his community should be used for purposes of reporting on persons who are of mixed racial and/or ethnic origins Respondents are asked to select both an ethnicity and one or more of the above five racial categories. (Hispanic/Latino is considered an ethnicity, not a race category.)
Some data collections request race and ethnicity separately. If those were used, the minimum designations were:
  • Race (Choose one):
    • American Indian or Alaskan Native
    • Asian or Pacific Islander
    • Black
    • White
  • Ethnicity (Choose one):
    • Hispanic origin
    • Not of Hispanic origin
A two-part question is mandatory, with the ethnicity part asked first.
  • Ethnicity (Choose one):
    • Hispanic/Latino
    • Not Hispanic/Latino
  • Race (Choose one or more, regardless of Ethnicity):
    • American Indian or Alaskan Native
    • Asian
    • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
    • Black or African American
    • White
Minimum Federal Reporting Categories

If the combined format is used:

  • American Indian or Alaskan Native
  • Asian or Pacific Islander
  • Black, not of Hispanic origin
  • Hispanic
  • White, not of Hispanic origin.

Each student is associated with exactly one of the seven aggregate reporting categories:

  • Hispanic/Latino of any race
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Two or more races
Dealing with Missing Information
Individuals (or students' parents) are asked to self-identify themselves. Observer identification is required if individuals decline to choose a race/ethnicity. Unchanged.
Three years. However, when there is litigation, a claim, an audit, or another action involving the records, original responses must be retained until the completion of the action. Unchanged.


1 “The Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (Statistical Policy Directive No. 15)” issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1977.
2Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education,” Federal Register, October 19, 2007.

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