Census Changes Coming Soon

Kevin A. Thompson
July 5, 2023

(Photo: Brazilian Indigenous Rapper, Katu mirim)

Changes are coming to the U.S. Census that will affect Indigenous People. The media was invited to the Census National Advisory Committee (NAC)  meeting on May 4, 2023 to discuss these changes. The Chairperson was Ms. Cherokee Bradley of the Census Bureau.

The biggest change is the separation of Race and Ethnicity as two separate categories.  For Latinx people this has often meant choosing “Hispanic or Latino” as their ethnicity, and “White” as their race. In the future, they can choose their national origin (for example, Mexican) and they will be counted as Latino/a. 

As discussed in the meeting, most Latinx folks consider their Latin American country of origin as both their culture and their race, and “white” to refer to a different people.

Likewise, Arab Americans, who usually choose “white,” will now get to choose MENA (Middle East and North African) as an ethno-racial ancestry category.  MENA will include Israelis and also transnational ethno-religious groups (formerly called “diasporas”) such as Coptic (Egyptian) Christians, Kurds, and Chaldeans (Christians from Iraq).

Just as the “White” category will be further broken down, the “Black” category will be also.  In fact, Dr. Iheoma M. Iruku, a committee member, reported that Carribean Americans  are the most likely of any “Black” group to identify themselves  by their ancestry (West Indian, Afro-Caribbean) more than by their race. 

The committee is recommending that “Ancestry” will increasingly combine race and ethnicity as categories, as well as Afro-Latino and Afro-MENA. 

As for American Indians, the biggest change may be the dropping of the old definition of an Indian as “one who takes part in tribal life and is accepted as an Indian by the community.”  This extra qualification was designed to exclude persons of alleged “Negro” origin from being classified as Indians. 

The National Advisory Committee’s(NAC) recommendations are usually accepted by the Office of Management and Budget, who authorizes the census. NAC meetings can be seen below. Click links:

2023 Census National Advisory Committee (NAC) Spring Meeting, Day 1

2023 Census National Advisory Committee (NAC) Spring Meeting, Day 2