Race and ethnicity are two demographic measures that provide basic descriptive information about a respondent. This information can inform state policymakers of significant differences that may exist among racial or ethnic groups in areas such as employment; job training; or personal, family, or community barriers to employment and self-sufficiency.
There has been continuous debate among researchers as to the best way to collect racial and ethnic data in surveys. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) revised its standards for maintaining, collecting and presenting federal data on race and ethnicity (OMB 1997). These standards require that:
- A two-question format be used, with the ethnicity question preceding the race question, to provide flexibility and ensure data quality
- Hispanic or Latino be clearly designated as an ethnicity, not as a race
- Respondents be offered the option of selecting one or more racial designations
- At a minimum, the total number of persons identifying themselves with more than one race will be reported
According to the OMB (1997), the minimum designations for race and ethnicity are:
- American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains his or her tribal affiliation or community attachment.
- Asian. Someone whose origins lie in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Black or African American. A person whose origins lie in any of the black groups of Africa. Terms such as Haitian or Negro can be used in addition to Black or African American.
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. A person having his or her origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or the other Pacific Islands.
- White. Someone whose origins are in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
- Hispanic or Latino. A person from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central America, or any other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The term Spanish origin can be used in addition to Hispanic or Latino.