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Initial Proposal 4: Update Terminology in SPD 15.

The Working Group proposes that SPD 15 make the following changes in regards to terminology:

Terminologies Used Within Minimum Categories

  • The Working Group proposes that SPD 15 remove:

    - “Negro” from the Black or African American definition

    - “Far East” from the Asian definition, replacing with “East Asian”

    - “Other” from “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander”

    - The phrase “who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment” in the American Indian or Alaska Native definition, making this minimum category’s definition consistent with all minimum categories

  • The Working Group proposes that SPD 15 correct “Cuban” being listed twice in the minimum category definition for “Hispanic or Latino.”

  • The Working Group proposes that the American Indian or Alaska Native minimum category description be changed to: “The category ‘American Indian or Alaska Native’ includes all individuals who identify with any of the original peoples of North, Central, and South America.”


  • The Working Group proposes that SPD 15 discontinue use of the terms “majority” and “minority.”

Question Stem and Instructions

  • The Working Group proposes that if a combined race and ethnicity question is adopted, the question stem use "race" and "ethnicity" as part of the question, i.e., “What is < your/name’s > race or ethnicity?”

  • The Working Group proposes that the current instructions of “Mark < X > one or more” and “Select < X > one or more” be updated to “Mark all that apply” and “Select all that apply.”


The terminology used in SPD 15 should seek to ensure that all people are able to identify themselves within one or more of the minimum categories, that the minimum and detailed categories reflect meaningful and easy to understand distinctions, and that the language used is respectful of how people refer to themselves.

In the current SPD 15 the minimum category definitions are internally inconsistent in their descriptions, and in some places use outdated or unclear terminology. Recent research shows inconsistent understanding and use of the terms “majority” and “minority,” and that the terms may be perceived by some as pejorative and not inclusive. Decennial census and ACS research suggests that some respondents are confused by the distinction between the terms “race,” “ethnicity,” and “origin” used in question stems. The research also suggests that some respondents stop reading the instructions “mark one or more” after the word “one.”

Page Last Revised - May 10, 2023