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U.S. census to update race and ethnicity section, first change in 27 years

The U.S. census will make a change for the first time in 27 years regarding race and ethnicity in its data collection.

On March 28th, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget published its first revision, which will significantly impact the 2030 census.

Federal agencies will adopt these new standards for all documents by combining race and ethnicity questions on federal forms within the next five years.

One updated standard includes adding a Middle Eastern or North African American category.

According to Data USA, over half of Gainesville residents are categorized as white non-Hispanics, indicating a large majority of residents are from diverse racial backgrounds.

This data doesn't account for the local Middle Eastern or North African communities, as they are grouped into white non-Hispanics, meaning that non-white racial identities may be the majority in the city.

Christopher McCarty is the director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. He is an expert in social network analysis and survey research and believes accurately measuring the American population is essential.

“They’re are certain perhaps health disparities for example that affect those folks that we want to keep track of so we can put resources where we need them.”

In the past, anyone filling out the census could specify their nationality to improve the accuracy of the data collection.

“The problem is that people write all kinds of things in that space, and since it’s not standardized, there’s a real potential for people to be undercounted,” McCarthy said.

Amanda Sahar d’Urso is a government assistant professor at Georgetown University specializing in race and ethnicity politics.

She says misrepresentation matters to racial groups such as Middle Easterners and North Africans, who were previously encouraged to identify as white on federal forms.

Latinos and Hispanics will also be impacted by combining the separate ethnicity question on the census and making it an option alongside the other racial categories. The previous separation of race and ethnicity confused and failed to collect data on the distinctions of the varying races that Latinos and Hispanics may identify as.

“Categorized as white, makes it really difficult in that group to make claims what they need, what we need for the American government,” d’Urso says.

One American who would be affected is Nayef Amhaz. Amhaz is the president of the Lebanese American Society at the University of Florida and says the census lacked clarification on whether to put white or other.

“Every time I mentioned it to someone I know, they would agree. There was no clear decision back then, but now there is,” Amhaz says.

With these changes, there will be new recognition of communities in America that are underrepresented and previously inaccurately counted. Amhaz says it's important to distinguish what race or ethnicity people see themselves as.

“Us being recognized as Arabs on the census, makes people realize like, oh it’s an identity on its own,” Amhaz said.

The updates will be implemented in the 2030 Census, but Federal agencies have a five-year deadline to adopt these new standards.

Maria is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing