On The Horizon: New Standards For Collecting And Presenting Race And Ethnicity Data

As organizations are preparing and filing the 2023 EEO-1 Data Collection reports, (deadline is June 4th) there's a change on the horizon for future reporting.
United States Government, Public Sector
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As organizations are preparing and filing the 2023 EEO-1 Data Collection reports, (deadline is June 4th) there's a change on the horizon for future reporting.

For the first time in over twenty-five years, in March, 2024 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a set of proposed revisions to Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity ("Revised SPD 15"). While these revisions were long overdue, not much has (or will) change soon.

Recognizing that race and ethnicity are "socialpolitical constructs," and acknowledging the increased racial and ethnic diversity of the country, in June 2022 OMB established a working group, and started a formal review of its race and ethnic categories to better reflect how several federal agencies, including EEOC and OFCCP, view and analyze demographic data. The Revised SPD 15 is the product of this review.

While SPD 15 has many changes and is the culmination of years of research, here are a few of the proposal highlight:

  • The requirement to collect Hispanic ethnicity separately from other races would be no more! After considering a series of cognitive interviews conducted by its working group, and research conducted by the Census Bureau in preparation for the 2020 census collection, OMB determined that race and ethnicity will be combined into a single question, citing that this approach "reduced confusion and improved data quality."
  • "Middle Eastern or North African (MENA)" would be its own separate race/ethnicity category. Previously, individuals who traced their ancestry to the Middle East or North Africa were defined and tabulated within the "White" category. Public comments reflected concerns that the White classification "did not reflect the reality" of many individuals who identify as MENA, and research conducted by federal agencies confirmed broad public support for having a distinct category, so the change was implemented.
  • Words Matter: Terminology updates. The Revised SPD 15 would change outdated terms. For example, "majority" and "minority" would no longer be used, except when statistically accurate. The term "Far East" in the "Asian" category definition would be replaced by "East Asian".
  • Focus on multiple identities. The Revised SPD 15 emphasizes that reporting multiple categories would not only allowed, but would be "encouraged."

To be clear, no immediate action is required. Federal Agencies need to first create plans to bring their respective agencies into compliance and submit these plans for OMB's review next year ( within 18 months of proposal). The Agencies will have 5 years (until 2029) to implement the new rules. As a result, we do not yet know how EEOC or OFCCP will interpret and implement SPD 15. In the meantime, employers should be aware of the new requirements, and start strategizing how they may fit into their current data collection practices and objectives to create a smooth roll out plan for the new data gathering.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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