Extending the Utility of Federal Data Bases. Task 2 Findings


The Task 2 report contains an inventory of selected major Federal databases, with particular emphasis on information relating to the ability of each database to provide reasonably reliable statistics on the race/ethnic subgroups of interest. The crucial information consists of:

  • The population coverage for each survey, the main focus of the content of the questionnaire, and the publication policy.
  • Whether the survey or other data collection system currently obtains each respondents race/ethnic background in the detail required and the question wording used (the question wording and classification detail are expected to change in the next few years to reflect OMBs revised race/ethnic reporting system.)
  • The approximate sample sizes for the race/ethnic subgroups of interest.
  • Interview policy for the survey.(1)

Appendix B of the Task 2 report contains a detailed description of the way race/ethnicity is currently obtained in each database. The information is summarized below:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native. All of the databases identify this group. In addition, the census, the U.S. Census Bureau surveys, and many (though not all) of the surveys sponsored by the NCHS distinguish between American Indians and Alaskan natives, but the vital statistics systems do not, nor do those sponsored by NCES. (We note that although the question wording on this racial group has not changed significantly in the last few decades, there are problems of historical comparability. The 1990 Census reported a sharp increase in the number of American Indians or Alaska Natives over the number in the 1980 Census, much greater than can be accounted for by natural increase. Most demographers attribute this change to a heightened interest of persons of American Indian ancestry to acknowledge an affiliation with this racial category.)
  • Hispanic subgroups. All databases except MCBS and NHES identify each Hispanic person as Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or other Hispanic. In the census, ACS, CPS, and SIPP the "other Hispanics" are further classified as Central American, South American, or other Hispanic. A combined Central and South American classification is used in NVS.
  • Asian and Pacific Islanders. Considerable variation exists in the way APIs are asked to describe themselves and in the detailed groups that are identified. The decennial census, ACS, NHIS, NHANES, MEPS, NHSDA, and ECLS-K obtain the full level of detail. In the National Vital Statistics Systems (both natality and mortality), all states classify Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian and Filipinos separately. Vietnamese, Asian Indian, Korean, Samoan, and Guamanian are also separately identified in states that contain about two-thirds of the population in these groups; in the remainder of the U.S. they are combined into an "all other API" category. Since the ECLS-B sample is based on birth registrations, the same classifications are available. CPS, SIPP, NSFG, NIS, and NHES simply identify APIs as a single group, without any further detail. MCBS separates Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders from Asians, but does not obtain any further detail. This breakdown used by MCBS is consistent with the recent OMB Guidelines (see Appendix C of the Task 2 Report) that will be adopted by all surveys over the next few years. For simplicity we continue to use the term API in this report.