Peters Applauds Recommendation to Include Middle Eastern and North African Category in Federal Standards for Gathering Data on Race and Ethnicity

Peters Has Long Pressed for More Accurate Federal Data for this Population

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement applauding an announcement from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that an expert Interagency Technical Working Group has recommended revisions to the federal standards for collecting data on race and ethnicity, including a separate response category for people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent. Peters has long pressed for the creation of a distinct classification for MENA communities in federal data collection standards:

“For more than two decades, federal data gathering standards have limited our ability to identify disparities faced by Arab Americans in Michigan and across the nation. That is why I have long pushed for a separate category for this vibrant community and today’s announcement is a significant step to ensuring the federal government can better serve this population. These proposals will help ensure federal data accurately reflects the diversity of our nation – and I urge OMB to adopt them quickly following the public comment period.”

OMB announced recommended revisions to its Standards for Federal Data on Race & Ethnicity, proposed by an expert Interagency Technical Working Group, including adding a response category for Middle Eastern and North African populations and collecting race and ethnicity together in a single question. Current guidance for federal data collection, which must be used by all government agencies including the U.S. Census Bureau, was last updated by OMB in 1997 and does not contain a separate category for MENA populations. Initial proposals for updating the standards will be published in the Federal Register. The public is encouraged to provide comments on these proposals, including personal thoughts and reactions, by April 12, 2023. The public can comment by visiting the Federal Register and learn more by viewing OMB’s announcement and the website of the Interagency Technical Working Group.

Peters has repeatedly pressed for more accurate federal data related to the MENA population. Last year, he urged OMB to revise race and ethnicity standards and include a separate category for people of MENA descent. Following Peters’ efforts, the Administration announced it would begin a formal review to revise the federal data standards. Since being sworn in as a Senator in 2015, Peters has asked nominees for OMB and the U.S. Census Bureau about their plans to include a separate category for the MENA community in government-wide data standards, including in the census. Michigan is home to the one of the largest Arab American communities in the country. Peters will continue leading efforts to ensure MENA populations are accurately represented in federal data collection processes so the government can more effectively distribute resources to tackle unique challenges faced by this community.