Smiley face
Weather     Live Markets

Advocates for Arab Americans have long felt that their communities have been rendered invisible in official US Census data. However, this is set to change in the next federal census in 2030, as the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has announced new federal standards on collecting race and ethnicity data. For the first time, Americans with roots in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will have their own category in the survey. This change is seen as transformative by advocates such as Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab American Institute (AAI), who have been pushing for this update for years.

The impact of accurate population counts in the US is far-reaching, impacting federal funding allocation, congressional districts, and anti-discrimination laws. Previously, individuals with ties to MENA were categorized as “white” in the census, leading to significant undercounts of the community. This has made it difficult to conduct meaningful research on health and social trends. The new standards announced by the OMB aim to ensure high-quality data on race and ethnicity to better understand the impacts on various aspects of society such as health, education, and employment outcomes.

The update to the race and ethnicity data collection is seen as a significant first step by advocates like Abed Ayoub, the executive director of The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Changes to how this data is collected are rare, with the last update occurring in 1997. President Barack Obama proposed new standards, but they were delayed by President Donald Trump. The OMB’s new standards also require federal agencies to submit compliance plans and update their forms within five years, eliminating derogatory terms and combining race and ethnicity into a single category.

Advocates have argued that historical separations between race and ethnicity have led to confusion and undercounts, particularly affecting communities like Latinos. The new standards aim to bridge this gap and provide more accurate data on the diverse population of the United States. While the reception of the new standards has been somewhat muted, with concerns about refining subcategories, there is a recognition of the progress towards a more inclusive data collection system that reflects the country’s diversity.

The importance of accurate data collection is emphasized by advocates, who point to the COVID-19 pandemic as a clear example of the need for governments to identify and address the needs of diverse communities. A lack of representation in data can lead to policies that harm lives, making it crucial for communities like Arab Americans to be accurately counted in surveys like the census. As the US moves towards a more comprehensive data collection system, there is hope for more equitable policies and services that meet the needs of all citizens.

© 2024 Globe Echo. All Rights Reserved.