The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking the public’s perspective in a  formal review of the government’s standards for collecting race and ethnicity data, according to a blog written by Chief Statistician, Karin Orvis, and released by the White House on Aug. 30.

In June, OMB announced plans to begin a revision of Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: “Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.” The policy has not been revised in nearly 25 years.

“This Directive provides minimum standards that ensure the Federal Government’s ability to compare race and ethnicity information and data across Federal agencies, and also helps us to understand how well Federal programs serve a diverse America,” Orvis wrote.

The office is working with the Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity as well as Equitable Data Working Group to gain perspectives from Federal agencies, the blog said.

On Sept. 15, the working group will open the discussion to the public by holding its first virtual listening sessions, which will occur bi-monthly.

According to Orvis, the working group will make recommendations to revise the standards on three main topics:

  • 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.

“I understand the importance of moving quickly and with purpose,” Orvis wrote in the June White House blog. “I am committed to a full, transparent process for updating the standards. It will take the technical working group time to evaluate relevant research, engage in a meaningful way with the American public and all impacted agencies and develop recommendations to send to me.”

Orvis and her team have a goal of completing the revision by the summer of 2024.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.