US Takes Step Toward Including MENA Category on Census
The US government has taken an important step toward including a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) category to the ethnic and racial backgrounds Americans can report on the US census.
“Today, the Office of the Chief Statistician is taking a key step forward in its formal process to revise OMB’s [Office of Management and Budget] statistical standards for collecting and reporting race and ethnicity data across federal agencies,” Karin Orvis, chief statistician of the United States, said in a statement on Thursday.
Racial and ethnic categories one could check off in the 2020 US Census included: White; Black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian; Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander; some other race; and two or more races.
Americans from the MENA region have long complained that they face a dilemma in filling out the race and ethnicity categories on the US census. The US census historically categorized individuals of Middle Eastern descent under the white racial category. However, many individuals of Middle Eastern background do not identify as white and have faced a lack of recognition and misrepresentation in government data. In recent years, there have been efforts to include a separate category for MENA individuals, but it has yet to be added as an official category on the census. This has resulted in people of Middle Eastern and North African backgrounds having to choose between identifying as white or selecting “some other race” on the census, which can lead to undercounting and a lack of accurate data on the MENA population in the US.
The census can determine important aspects of people’s daily lives, including everything from federal funding for disadvantaged communities to the drawing of voting districts.