Federal Standards on Race/Ethnicity

group photo of Sociology department chair and other participants in Census bureau

Jen’nan Read lead of panel of experts who study how racial and ethnic categories are defined in US, how those definitions change over time, and the implications of the definitions for social inequality.

The US Census Bureau organized the session to receive feedback on the possibility of dropping the ancestry question on future data collection instruments, including the decennial Census and American Community Survey. Read and colleagues argued that ancestry is distinct from racial identity and demonstrated how dropping it would hinder progress on understanding ethnic diversity within broad racial groups, such as Whites and Blacks. Read’s presentation illustrated how the ancestry question allowed scholars to distinguish groups such as Arabs and Ukrainians (who are collapsed into the White category) and Haitians and Jamaicans (who are collapsed into the Black category) from other groups, thereby contributing to policy discussions aimed at understanding and reducing Black-White social inequalities.