Statistical policy directives and standards help understand information from many different sources. Without them, statistics (or other forms of data) from one source would be difficult to compare to statistics from another source. Rather than limiting data, statistical standards allow us to make use of all available data. In this way, Federal standards help describe our Nation, making efficient use of data collected by all Federal agencies.
Consistent with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's established process, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group) is composed of 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 Principle 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.
The Federal Register Notice is part of U.S. Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) current review of Statistical Policy Directive No. 15. It requests comments on the initial proposals from the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group). Responses to this Notice will help the Working Group develop their final recommendations to OMB and will also help OMB determine how to revise Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 to improve the quality and usefulness of Federal race and ethnicity data.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget 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 26 years since Statistical Policy Directive No. 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.
Given necessary steps, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has a goal of completing the revision no later than Summer 2024.
Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (SPD 15) does not require Federal Government agencies to collect information on race and ethnicity. However, all Federal information collections (e.g., censuses, surveys, and administrative forms) must adhere to SPD 15 when collecting race and ethnicity information.
The goals of Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (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).
The racial and ethnic categories developed in Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 represent a sociopolitical construct designed to be used in the self-reported or observed collection of data on the race and ethnicity of major broad population groups in this country and are not biologically or genetically based.
SPD 15 stands for Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. SPD 15 is referred to in different ways. Sometimes it is called “the directive,” sometimes “SPD 15,” and sometimes “the 1997 standards” or “the standards.”
Under the 1997 Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, data collections by Federal agencies may not include a Some Other Race (SOR) response category unless required by statute. Since 2005, the decennial census and American Community Survey (ACS) are required by law to include a SOR category, thereby adding a sixth minimum race category for decennial census and ACS. The decennial census and ACS are the only information collections with a statutory requirement for the use of a SOR category.