January 26, 2018


Project RACE received an email from the Census Bureau today with the subject: UPDATE ON 2020 CENSUS QUESTIONS ON RACE AND ETHNICITY. The Office of Management and Budget was supposed to issue their guidelines for the 2020 Census prior to 2018 and they did not. A variety of changes were proposed. Therefore, the bureau will utilize the following for the 2018 Census Test in Providence County, Rhode Island and most likely follow through with them on the 2020 Census:


  • A separate category for ethnicity and race will remain the same. A combined format will not be utilized. The two-question format remains.
  • Multiple Hispanic ethnicities such as Mexican and Puerto Rican will be collected with a write-in area.
  • Examples of races will be expanded for the White, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native racial categories.
  • The term “Negro” will be removed.
  • A separate “Middle Eastern or North American” (MENA) category will not be utilized.
  • The OMB standards state that respondents should be offered the option of reporting more than one race.
  • The term “multiracial” will not be used.
  • When the two questions are collected separately, ethnicity should be collected first.
  • An individual’s responses to the race and ethnicity questions are based upon self-identification.

A sample of the Census questionnaire for the race and ethnicity questions can be viewed at this link:

Project RACE has worked as closely as possible with Census Bureau personnel on the race and ethnicity questions for each decennial census since the 1990 Census. We had hoped for inclusion of the respectful and appropriate terminology of “multiracial” on government forms. Instead, the multiracial population is referred to as “two or more races” people. Our needs were not served in this area and we are disappointed in the Census Bureau representatives from the top levels to staff personnel. We also remain completely unsatisfied with the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC) for their choosing to not have representation by the multiracial community. We call for a change in leadership on the NAC prior to the 2020 United States Census. Without better representation, we risk a tremendous undercount of the multiracial population in 2020 and beyond.


The Trump administration also announced today that they requested a question about citizenship status on the census, which is controversial. It is under legal review. The Census Bureau must decide by March 31 if it will include the question.


Project RACE has made amazing progress in our past 28 year history. We remain the only national organization advocating for multiracial people. We have gained the ability to choose more than one race on federal agency forms, state and local questionnaires, medical and business forms and much more. Project RACE was also responsible for ending “eyeballing” and third party identification with vitally important self-identification and positive self-reporting guidelines.


We have been very vocal in Washington in spite of efforts to minimize the multiracial community. Project RACE has also weighed in on several other issues such as a combined format and a MENA category for Middle Eastern and North African people. We remain committed to helping other communities receive fair treatment in advocating for their particular racial and ethnic identities. We are hopeful that future administrations will show sensitivity toward all racial and ethnic populations.