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Census will offer Hispanic or Latino and Middle Eastern or North African as race categories for the first time

The new single race/ethnicity category reflects how many Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent would pick "some other race" on previous forms.r North African descent would pick "some other race" on previous forms.

Under new federal race and ethnicity standards, Latinos won't first have to answer whether they are Hispanic and then have to choose a race, and about 7 million or 8 million people of Middle Eastern or North African descent won't have to pick "white" or "other" on a census form. Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

For the first time, Hispanic or Latino is listed as one race/ethnicity category and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent will have their own checkbox under new race and ethnicity standards adopted by the Biden administration.

Up to now, Hispanics had a two-part question for their identity: They were asked whether they were Hispanic or Latino and then asked to pick a race of white, Black, American Indian or some other race.

The change now uses one question for race and ethnicity and allows people to check as many as apply to their identity. Each category has subcategories with examples that may apply and room for those that may not be listed.

The addition of a Middle Eastern or North African, or MENA, identifier would allow 7 million to 8 million people to no longer have to identify as “white” or “other” on the census and other forms in which such data is collected.

The changes are only the second update by the federal government to categories for data about the American population. The update — the last was in 1997 — of standards used by the federal government for the census and other agencies is meant to better capture the expanding multicultural identity of the country.

“These updated standards are going to help us create more useful, accurate and up-to-date federal data on race and ethnicity,” said an official with the Office of Management and Budget, who spoke to reporters Tuesday on the condition that the person not be identified.


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