Not Just 'Other': How the U.S. Census Is Rethinking the Race Question

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Copies of the 2010 Census forms

On the official U.S. Census, the question about race has five main choices, a "two or more" option, and simply, "Other." That last category was meant to capture a small, residual population of people who don't fall into a major race category. But for the past two decades, "Other" was the third largest race group in America.

Clearly something wasn't being captured accurately. That's why census officials have spent the last few years retooling and testing their questions about race and ethnicity. They released a report on their findings in late February 2017.

One of the changes they're considering is getting rid of the separate question that asks about Hispanic origin and making "Hispanic" an option in the race question. Officials realized that many Hispanic people were choosing "Other" because they didn't see themselves represented in any of the major race categories on the old census.

Another change: adding a MENA category, Middle Eastern and North African. On the old census, many people of Middle Eastern origin were choosing "White" or "Other" to describe themselves.

Census officials say they're happy with the increased detail they've recorded while testing these changes, but they're still considering other tweaks, such as doing away with the word "race" altogether.

Take a look at the 2010 census compared to one of the proposed versions. If you would have checked "Other" on the old form, tell us: does the reformed census give you a new and more accurate option? Use the hashtag #NotJustOther on Twitter to join the conversation.