Since 1977 the federal statistical agencies have used the four racial categories (American Indian
or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White) and two ethnic categories
(Hispanic origin, and Not of Hispanic origin) specified by the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) in Statistical Policy Directive No. 15. These are the minimum categories for reporting
race and ethnicity.
In 1994 OMB initiated a comprehensive review of the racial categories prescribed by Directive
No. 15, as part of which the Census Bureau conducted three sample surveys: 1) The May 1995
Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
a final report of which was published in June 1996; 2) the 1996 National Content Survey (NCS),
the results of which were published in December 1996; and 3) the 1996 Race and Ethnic
Targeted Test (RAETT), the results of which are presented for the first time in the accompanying
While the CPS and NCS surveys were designed to be nationally representative, a targeted sample
design was used in the RAETT. This design provides larger samples of six targeted populations
(Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and White ethnic)
than does a nationally representative sample, by drawing the samples from areas with high
concentrations of the specified population groups. Unlike the results of the two earlier samples,
the results for the targeted sample in the RAETT can only be generalized to areas of relatively
high concentrations of the targeted populations used to select each sample. These areas of high
concentration represent 3 percent or less of American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander, and
White ethnic households nationally, 8 percent of Alaska Native households, 10 percent of Black
households, and 15 percent of Hispanic households.
SUMMARY OF THE RAETT'S RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
Objective: Determine the effects of a multiracial category and of
two new instructions in the race question: to "Mark one or more" or to
"Mark all that apply."
Some respondents provided unrequested multiple responses, despite instructions in those
panels to mark one box, especially in the Alaska Native and in the Asian and Pacific Islander
The options for reporting more than one race did not affect the percentages reporting solely
as White, as Black, or as American Indian in their respective targeted samples. However they did
affect the percentages of Alaska Native and of Asian and Pacific Islander in their respective
The multiracial category affected reporting in the single race category of Asian and Pacific
Islander and of American Indian and Alaska Native.
The "mark all that apply" option also affected the reporting of Asian and Pacific Islander as
a single race in that targeted sample, but the "mark one or more" option did not.
When the race and Hispanic origin questions are combined, a high percentage of responses
included both Hispanic origin and one of the four major race categories currently allowed under
Directive No. 15.
Using an illustrative procedure for classifying responses of more than one race into the
current OMB race categories eliminated most statistically significant effects of the multiple race
reporting options on reporting as Asian and Pacific Islander in that targeted sample, but only
reduced the effects in the Alaska Native targeted sample on reporting as American Indian and
Objective: Determine the effects of collecting information about
race, Hispanic origin, and ancestry in a combined, two-part
In every targeted sample, nonresponse to each of two combined questions was significantly
lower than nonresponse to the corresponding separate Hispanic origin and race questions.
The two combined race and Hispanic origin questions elicited high levels of multiple
responses in the Hispanic targeted sample. Over 90 percent of the multiple responses involved
Hispanic origin and a race group.
When all responses of Hispanic (either Hispanic alone or Hispanic in
combination with any other response) are added together, which is the
appropriate comparision, there is no statistically significant difference
in the percent reporting Hispanic between a combined question and separate
questions on Hispanic origin and race.
Write-ins to the ancestry component of the two-part question did not provide reporting of
the detailed Hispanic origin groups comparable to that provided in separate questions. For the
detailed groups of the Asian and Pacific Islander population, comparable information was
obtained by one version of the question ("mark one or more" instruction), but not by the other
version ("mark all that apply" instruction).
Objective: Determine the effects of placing the Hispanic origin
question immediately before the race question.
This reduced, but did not eliminate, nonresponse to the Hispanic origin question.
This also reduced, but did not eliminate, reporting in the "Other race" category on the race
Objective: Test alternative terminologies, classifications, and
formats in the race question.
Spelling out "American Indian or Alaska Native" instead of using "Indian (Amer) or Alaska
Native" has no effect on reporting as American Indian and Alaska Native in the American Indian
Substituting "Native Hawaiian" for "Hawaiian" and listing this category immediately after
the "American Indian and Alaska Native" category increased reporting as Hawaiian.
Alphabetizing the Asian and Pacific Islander groups after "Native Hawaiian" had no effect
on the total percentage reporting as Asian and Pacific Islander in that targeted sample.
Given the very small numbers involved, no statistically significant difference was found
between reporting as "Guamanian or Chamorro" or as "Guamanian."
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division and
Decennial Statistical Studies Division
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Last Revised: October 31, 2011 at 10:03:15 PM