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Apr 11 -- Comment period extended to April 27, 2023. https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-07617

1) Jan 26 -- Initial Proposals for Revising the Federal Race and Ethnicity Standards [blog]

Today, the Office of the Chief Statistician is taking a key step forward in its formal process to revise OMB’s statistical standards for collecting and reporting race and ethnicity data across Federal agencies (Directive No. 15) by publishing an initial set of recommended revisions proposed by an Interagency Technical Working Group.

This process commenced last summer with the goal of ensuring that the standards better reflect the diversity of the American people. Comprising Federal government career staff who represent more than 20 agencies, the Working Group was charged with proposing recommendations for improving the quality and usefulness of Federal race and ethnicity data. Today we are announcing those initial proposals, which include:

-- Collecting race and ethnicity together with a single question;
-- Adding a response category for Middle Eastern and North African, separate and distinct from the “White” category; and
-- Updating SPD 15’s terminology, definitions, and question wording.

It’s important to remember that the recommendations are preliminary—not final—and they do not represent the positions of OMB or the agencies participating on the Working Group.

As we consider these recommendations, we want to hear directly from the American people. Input from non-governmental stakeholders and the public will help guide the Working Group as it continues to refine and finalize its recommendations. We encourage everyone to provide your personal thoughts and reactions on these proposals, including how you believe they may affect different communities, by April 12, 2023.

You can visit the Working Group’s new website, read the full Federal Register Notice, provide feedback on the Working Group’s initial proposals, and participate in one of the Working Group’s virtual, bi-monthly listening sessions or upcoming public virtual town halls to share your individual perspectives directly. You can provide as little or as much feedback as you’d like for the Federal Register Notice (e.g., just addressing one question posed or responding to all aspects). To schedule a listening session to offer your perspective, please send a brief email expressing interest to Statistical_Directives@omb.eop.gov.  Additional details on the virtual town halls will be shared on the Working Group’s website. In all of our efforts to gather your valuable feedback, we will not be seeking consensus recommendations.

We are committed to a full, transparent revision process, guided by input from the American people. Your participation in this process will play a critical role in helping us improve the way Federal agencies safely and accurately collect and use information on the race and ethnicity of our diverse America. . . . . [W]e look forward to sharing additional updates in the months ahead. We are on track to reach the goal of completing these important revisions by the Summer of 2024.
TWG website: https://spd15revision.gov/
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-01635
Blog: https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/briefing-room/2023/01/26/initial-proposals-for-revising-the-federal-race-and-ethnicity-standards/

2) Jan 27 -- FRN: Initial Proposals For Updating OMB's Race and Ethnicity Statistical Standards
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requests comments on the initial proposals from the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group) for revising OMB's 1997 Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (SPD 15). Responses to this Notice will be shared with the Working Group and will help the Working Group develop their final recommendations to OMB and will also help OMB determine how to revise SPD 15 to improve the quality and usefulness of Federal race and ethnicity data.
OMB initially developed SPD 15 in 1977, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, to provide consistent data on race and ethnicity (when aggregated to the minimum reporting categories) throughout the Federal Government, including the decennial census, household surveys, and Federal administrative forms (e.g., benefit application forms). Initial development of this data standard stemmed in large part from Federal responsibilities to enforce civil rights laws. Since 1977, SPD 15 has been revised one time, resulting in the 1997 Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.

The goals of SPD 15 are to ensure the comparability of race and ethnicity across Federal datasets and to maximize the quality of that data by ensuring that the format, language, and procedures for collecting the data are consistent and based on rigorous evidence. To achieve these goals, SPD 15 provides a minimum set of categories that all Federal agencies must use if they intend to collect information on race and ethnicity, regardless of the collection mechanism (e.g., Federal surveys versus program benefit applications).
OMB undertakes periodic reviews of its Federal statistical standards to ensure that they are keeping pace with changes in the population and evolving needs and uses for data. Federal race and ethnicity standards are inherently complex because they seek to capture dynamic and fluid sociopolitical constructs. Over the nearly 25 years since SPD 15 was revised there have been large societal, political, economic, and demographic shifts in the United States throughout this period, for example:

-- Increasing racial and ethnic diversity;
-- A growing number of people who identify as more than one race or ethnicity; and
-- Changing immigration and migration patterns.

In 2022, OMB convened the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group). Consistent with the established OMB process discussed above, the Working Group comprises Federal career staff who represent programs that collect or use race and ethnicity data. The agencies on the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy, i.e., the 13 Principal Statistical Agencies; and the 24 agencies enumerated by the Chief Financial Officers Act; as well as one additional agency selected for its reliance on race and ethnicity data, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, were invited to nominate representatives to the Working Group.

OMB charged the Working Group with providing recommendations on topics including, but not limited to:

-- Whether the minimum reporting categories should be changed and how to best address detailed race and ethnicity groups in the standards;
-- Whether updates should be made to the question format, terminology, and wording of the questions, as well as the instructions for respondents and associated guidance; and
-- Whether guidance for the collection and reporting of race and ethnicity data can be improved, including in instances when self-identification is not possible.

The Working Group assessed the work by the previous 2014-2018 Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity, existing Federal Government research, experiences from the 2020 Census, and the work of the Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data pursuant to Executive Order 13985. Additionally, the Working Group is also relying on input from the public to help with identifying needs and uses for data. On August 30, OMB announced the start of virtual, bi-monthly listening sessions to hear directly from members of the public. These listening sessions began in September 2022 and are expected to continue in 2023.

For this current review, the Working Group adopted the following principles to guide their work.

1. Race and ethnicity are socio-political constructs. For purposes of these standards, the race and ethnicity categories set forth are sociopolitical constructs and are not an attempt to define race and ethnicity biologically or genetically.

2. Respect individuals. Respect for individual dignity should guide the processes and methods for collecting data on race and ethnicity; respondent self-identification should be facilitated to the greatest extent possible.

3. Clear concepts and terminology. To the extent practicable, the concepts and terminology should reflect clear and generally understood definitions that can achieve broad public acceptance.

4. Comprehensive categories. The racial and ethnic categories should be comprehensive in coverage and produce compatible, non-duplicated, exchangeable data across Federal agencies.

5. Consider useful data aggregations. Foremost consideration should be given to data aggregations by race and ethnicity that are useful for statistical analysis, program administration and assessment, and enforcement of existing laws and judicial decisions—bearing in mind that the standards are not intended to be used to establish eligibility for participation in any Federal program.

6. Consider State/local government data needs. While Federal needs for racial and ethnic data are of primary importance, consideration should also be given to needs at the State and local government levels, including American Indian tribal and Alaska Native village governments, as well as to general societal needs for these data.

7. Standards set forth minimum categories. The standards should set forth minimum categories; additional categories should be encouraged, provided they can be aggregated to the minimum categories. The number of minimum categories should be kept to a manageable size, as determined by statistical concerns and data needs.

8. Consider operational feasibility. A revised set of categories should be operationally feasible in terms of burden placed upon respondents and the cost to agencies and respondents to implement the revisions.

9. Category changes are based on sound research. Any changes in the categories should be based on sound methodological research and should include evaluations of the impact of any changes not only on the usefulness of the resulting data but also on the comparability of any new categories with the existing ones.

10. Category revisions require a crosswalk. Any revision to the categories should provide for a crosswalk at the time of adoption between the old and the new categories so that historical data series can be statistically adjusted and comparisons can be made.

11. Changes are based upon an interagency collaborative effort. Because of the many and varied needs, and strong interdependence, of Federal agencies for racial and ethnic data, any changes to the existing categories should be the product of an interagency collaborative effort.

12.  All racial and ethnic categories should adhere to public law. All racial and ethnic categories, both established and potential, should be reviewed and constructed in a manner that adheres to public law.

OMB requests comments on these initial Working Group proposals. Note that these proposals are preliminary and do not reflect the settled opinions of the Working Group, the position of OMB, or the positions of the agencies participating on the Working Group. The Working Group will continue to deliberate, assess evidence, and take into consideration comments received from the public before making final recommendations . . . .

1. Collect race and ethnicity information using one combined question. . . .
2. Add “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA) as a new minimum category. . . .
3. Require the collection of detailed race and ethnicity categories by default. . . .
4. Update Terminology in SPD 15. . . .
5. Guidance is necessary to implement SPD 15 revisions on Federal information collections. . . .
6. Comments On Any Additional Topics and Future Research. . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-01635

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