Census Update: New Categories For Hispanics, Middle Easterners

The U.S. Census will soon include new categories for individuals identifying as Hispanic or Latino and Middle Eastern or North African (MENA), departing from the traditional racial classifications. The changes were announced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) based on its assertion that the changes will provide a more accurate representation of America’s diverse population.

The modifications, influenced by findings from the 2020 census, come after it was observed that a large number of Hispanic respondents shied away from existing racial options, often opting for “some other race” or indicating “two or more races.” With 42% of Hispanics choosing “some other race” in the last ten-year census, OMB said a more accurate descriptor is needed.

The census will also offer subcategories for Hispanics and Middle Easterners, allowing for a more nuanced self-identification. This includes options such as “Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran” for Hispanics and “Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian” for Middle Easterners.

This overhaul isn’t without its detractors, however. Concerns about the potential for diminished representation have been raised, especially among Afro-Latinos. The melding of race and ethnicity into co-equal categories, as some argue, risks oversimplifying the diverse racial makeup of the Latino population, ignoring the distinct experiences of Black Latinos.

The U.S. census has historically been fluid, changing to reflect the nation’s shifting demographics and societal norms. From the first inclusion of a category for Hispanics in 1930 to the latest updates, the census has served as a mirror to America’s complex identity landscape. Yet, this evolution often stirs debate, underscoring the challenge of categorizing a nation as diverse as the United States. There is no doubt that many on the political left are eager to use any new program in a way to divide the races in America further to promote its agenda of victimization, conflict, and separation.

The census data influence everything from legislative redistricting to federal funding allocation, and how Americans are categorized has profound consequences. As the nation continues to deal with its political direction in an ever-diversifying world, the census serves as both a reflection of and a contributor to the ongoing dialogue about what it means to be American.