Requests for Comment on Federal Data Collections

Economists’ capacity to produce meaningful, reproducible, impactful analyses is a function of their access to current, reliable, detailed data. The Federal government is a major supplier of data used in economic research – particularly via the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

When Federal statistical agencies want to revise existing data collections or launch new ones, they are required by the Paperwork Reduction Act to clear their plans through the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As part of this process, agencies issue requests for comment on planned changes in data collections. Requests may solicit input on specific survey questions, data collection methods, plans for data release and access, or methods of preventing disclosure of respondents’ identities. Or they may ask general questions about the utility of the data and how it could be improved. Some open requests for comment on data collections that may be of broad-based interest are listed on this page. Additional requests are posted on EconSpark.

In the experience of AEA’s Committee on Economic Statistics (AEAStat), knowledgeable comments from AEA members are highly valued by federal agencies, especially when they address data-collection features that complicate researchers’ ability to use the data to answer important questions, and when they identify changes that will improve the utility of the data for meeting information needs. To help AEA members make the most of opportunities to comment, AEAStat has developed a primer on the public comment process, which explains the why, what, and how of providing comments.

Please consider replying to requests that are up your alley! Your knowledgeable, thoughtful, actionable comments can help improve data quality, increase data access, open up new research opportunities, and contribute to ever-more robust economic research.  

*** Opportunity to comment on revisions to OMB standards for collecting data on race and ethnicity in federal surveys – DUE BY APRIL 12, 2023 ***

When collecting information on respondents’ race and ethnicity, all federal surveys must follow minimum standards set by Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The current standards were set in 1997 and take a two-question approach. A first question asks respondents whether their ethnicity is “Hispanic or Latino.” A second asks whether their race is American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or White; more than one race can be selected. Respondents are known to find this question structure confusing, with rising shares (especially people of Hispanic, Middle Eastern, North African, and Afro-Caribbean origin) reporting themselves as some race other than the specified options.    
To address this issue, in 2022, OMB charged an Interagency Technical Working Group, representing 20+ federal agencies, with reviewing relevant research and recommending revisions that would the quality and usefulness of federal race and ethnicity data. In January 2023, OMB put the ITWG’s recommendations out for public comment.  

The core ITWG recommendation is to switch from the current two-question approach (at left) to a one-question approach (at right), with the options below as the new minimum standards.

1997 Minimum Standard Recommended Revision


For contexts where more detailed information is required, the Working Group recommends using a set of options like the one shown at right.

AEAStat recommends that economists interested in this topic, or whose research makes use of federal survey or administrative data with information on race/ethnicity, review OMB’s proposed revisions and submit any comments that could help update federal standards for collecting accurate, useful data on race/ethnicity within the U.S. population.
The Federal Register notice lists many specific questions OMB has about recommended changes, such as:

  • Are the draft minimum categories: comprehensive in coverage of all racial and ethnic identities in the U.S., reflective of meaningful distinctions, easy to understand, and respectful of how people refer to themselves?
  • Is the term ‘‘Middle Eastern or North African’’ likely to be understood and accepted by people in this community?
  • Are the options in the detailed question design (at right) well-framed and sufficient to include all individuals?

To let OMB know what you think, you can submit comments directly via the Federal Register comment portal by 4/12/22, or send them to the AEA's Economic Statistics Committee by 4/5/23 (