Analysis: Census May Change How Race Is Measured

The U.S. Census Bureau is exploring making changes to its surveys that would categorize “Hispanic” as a distinct group and could change the way some Middle Easterners could be identified.

The potential changes are based on recommendations from government research in which many of those who filled out the 2010 Census said they did not feel they fit within the five categories of race offered on the form. 

Other proposed changes include dropping the word “Negro” and adding a write-in category that would allow Middle Easterners and others to identify themselves.

Roberto Ramirez, chief of the Ethnicity and Ancestry Branch at the U.S. Census Bureau, said he believes the proposed format allows certain groups to feel better acknowledged.

“We think it provides more equity,” he said.

In an interview with WNYC, Juan Flores, professor of Black and Latino Studies at NYU, said he believes the change in measuring ethnicity will confuse people.

“It’s not just changing a word. It’s changing a concept of what this group is,” said Flores said.

Critics say they fear the changing of words could mean a lower count among certain racial and ethnic groups.

Hispanics, for example, are made up of whites, blacks and other races but those distinctions would be left out if the recommendations were accepted.

“That’s getting farther away than from the reality people live in this society because not all Hispanics are profiled,” said Flores.

The Bureau will continue to test and refine the census until 2017-2018 when it is required to send a sample form to Congress for approval.

WNYC would like to know if you find the combined race/origin question more reflective of the diversity in the U.S. and how you would label yourself.

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