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About OMB’s Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards

Working Group’s Purpose

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (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. In 2022, OMB convened the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (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.


Bob Sivinski
Working Group Chair

Bob Sivinski

Statistical and Science Policy Office
U.S. Office of Management and Budget

Karen Battle
Working Group Co-Chair

Karen Battle

Chief, Population Division
U.S. Census Bureau

For More Information

Governing Principles

In the deliberations leading to the 1977 and the 1997 race and ethnicity standards, principles were established to guide interagency consideration. The 2022-2024 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 data 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. Categories set forth a minimum standard. The standards should set forth minimum categories; additional categories should be encouraged provided they can be aggregated to the standard categories. The number of standard 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.
Page Last Revised - March 19, 2024