How The U.S. Defines Race And Ethnicity May Change Under Trump
Some major changes may be coming to how the U.S. government collects data about the country's racial and ethnic makeup. The Trump administration has been considering proposals to ask about race and ethnicity in a radical new way on the 2020 Census and other surveys that follow standards set by the White House.
Is "Hispanic or Latino" a race or an ethnicity?
Race and ethnicity are messy — too messy, perhaps, to fully capture in words. But since 1977, the U.S. government has distilled terms such as "white," "black" and "Hispanic" into standardized definitions that have stayed the same since 1997, the only time federal standards for race and ethnicity data have been updated.
These standards have established a base line for federal surveys that ask people to self-report their racial and ethnic identities. While surveys can collect more detailed information, they must at least ask essentially two questions. First, are you of Hispanic or Latino origin? Then, what is your race?
"People were pretty secure in how they filled out the Hispanic question," says Tomás Jiménez, a sociologist at Stanford University who has studied how Latinos have filled out the census. "But then when they got down to the race question and there's a set of options that lay out other ethnic groups and they don't see their own, they're just more or less confused."