National Center for Education Statistics

Provide Input on Proposed Changes to Statistical Standards for Federal Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Tom Snyder

Each Federal agency is responsible for collecting and disseminating different types of data on topics of interest and importance to the American public. In order to look across data sources to get a more complete picture of any one topic, it is important that those datasets are comparable.

Federal agencies that collect and report race and ethnicity data use the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity to promote uniformity and comparability.  The standards guide information collected and presented for the decennial census, household surveys, administrative forms (e.g., school registration and mortgage lending applications), and numerous other statistical collections, as well as for civil rights enforcement and program administrative reporting.

Periodically, these standards are reviewed. The Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity has been tasked with reviewing the standards on race and ethnicity. A March 1st Federal Register Notice and associated interim report by the Working Group communicates the current status of this work and requests public feedback on the following four areas:


  1. The use of separate questions versus a combined question to measure race and Hispanic origin, and question phrasing as a solution to race/ethnicity question nonresponse;
  2. The classification of a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) group and distinct reporting category;
  3. The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories (e.g., requiring or encouraging more detailed reporting within each minimum reporting category); and
  4. The terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications and other language in the standard.


Additional details on each of these four areas are available in the full notice, posted on the website. All members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback on these topics.  OMB will use all the public comments, along with recommendations from the Federal Interagency Working Group, to determine if any proposed revisions to the standards are warranted. According to established practice, OMB plans to notify the public of its final decision, along with its rationale.

Comments on the Federal Register Notice are due by April 30, 2017 and can be submitted electronically to or via the Federal E-Government website. Comments may also be sent by mail to U.S. Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget, 1800 G St., 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20503. All public feedback will be considered by the Federal Interagency Working Group as they write their final report, which will be used by OMB as they decide on any possible revisions to the standards.  

Additional information on how federal agenices use race and ethnicity data as well as more a more detailed description of the potential changes to the current standards are available in this webinar:

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