HomeAsian AmericansFederal agencies will now gather more detailed data on race and ethnicity

Federal agencies will now gather more detailed data on race and ethnicity

The federal government is making an effort to disaggregate data regarding Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders. It is also getting rid of outdated language in its guidelines.

For the first time since 1997, the Office of Management and Budget revised Statistical Policy Directive Number 15, which sets guidelines for how federal agencies collect, maintain and report data on race and ethnicity. It does not, however, mandate that agencies collect such data.

The OMB made several changes to SPD-15, including adding Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) as a minimum reporting category. It also eliminated descriptors like “Oriental,” “Far East” and “Indian Subcontinent.” AANHPI organizations are welcoming these changes.

“Not only were those terms inaccurate, they also contributed to a narrative of Asian Americans being perpetual foreigners in the United States,” Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) said in a press release.

Under the new guidelines, agencies collecting data on race and ethnicity will be asked to collect data beyond the minimum categories. For example, respondents will be offered these additional categories corresponding to the minimum category “Asian:”

  • Chinese
  • Asian Indian
  • Filipino
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Japanese, and
  • Another group (for example, Pakistani, Hmong, Afghan, etc.)

The following categories will be offered in addition to “Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander:”

  • Native Hawaiian
  • Samoan
  • Chamorro
  • Tongan
  • Fijian
  • Marshallese
  • Another group (for example, Chuukese, Palauan, Tahitian, etc.)

AANHPI organizations have praised the new guidelines but also expressed skepticism over their implementation.

“SEARAC applauds the OMB and the Administration for this revision which marks progress for more visibility of the Southeast Asian community, including identifying Vietnamese as one of the detailed communities for data collection and including the Hmong as an example of another group within the Asian racial category” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC.

“However, we are disappointed that the regulation doesn’t go further to require the collection of additional Southeast Asian ethnic data, such as the Cambodian, Lao, Mien, and many others, through a write-in option as the default standard. We are also concerned about the option for agencies to opt-out of the requirement to collect detailed race and ethnic data, which would lump all Asian ethnic data under one category. SEARAC and our partners are committed to working with the federal government to ensure that our country goes above and beyond these minimum requirements to make our communities long-standing needs visible.”

CACF also said they were concerned that agencies would choose to focus on collecting data for the largest ethnic groups but not smaller ethnic groups.

SPD 15 will require collection of data beyond those minimum categories “unless an agency determines that the 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, and therefore requests an exemption from OIRA.” It is unclear how agencies will determine whether it beneficial enough to justify “the additional burden.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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