Biden’s administration proposes a change in the way it collects data about federal workers. This would allow employees to identify as being of Middle Eastern or North African origin, rather than as “White.”
Thursday’s announcement by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), included a number of proposed changes to race/ethnicity data it had kept since 1977. According to the OMB, changes are necessary because people’s preferences regarding how they identify themselves have changed.
In its proposal, the OMB stated that the United States has experienced “large societal and political economic and demographic shifts throughout this period.” It cited the following examples: increased racial diversity, a growing number people who identify as more then one race or ethnicity, and changes in immigration and migration patterns.
One of these changes would impact current language, which requires people to identify themselves “White” if their “origins are in any of the original peoples or North Africa, Europe, or the Middle East.” The OMB proposed a change that would allow people to request a separate category from White European-Americans.
“Presenters recommended that the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA), population be recognized and respected by creating a new and distinct minimum reporting categorie because, for instance, many people in the MENA community don’t share the same lived experiences as White people of European ancestry, don’t identify as White, or are not perceived by others as White,” the OMB proposal stated.
OMB also stated that a new “MENA” category would “recognize” this community.
The government’s data collection efforts are designed to “ensure that race and ethnicity can be compared across Federal datasets” and to maximize data quality by ensuring that the format and language used to collect the data is consistent and based upon rigorous evidence.
OMB also proposed changes to the data collection and presentation, including the use of a single question to seek out information about race and ethnicity. The OMB suggested a question asking federal workers their “race or ethnicity” because many people misunderstand the terms.
Other wording changes were suggested by the OMB, including replacing “Far East”, with “East Asian”, from the definition of Asian and ending the use of “majority”, and “minority”.
According to the OMB, those terms could be interpreted by some as excluding and pejorative.
Although the proposal is not finalized, the OMB seeks public input until mid-April.