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Improvements to the Race Question

Beginning in 2020, the Census Bureau implemented changes to the Race question based on extensive research and outreach over the past decade. For more information please see the 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment and the 2015 National Content Test.

Based on research and positive feedback from communities over the past decade, dedicated write-in response areas and examples were added for the “White” racial category and the “Black or African American” racial category.

Six example groups were provided for each of the "White," "Black or African American," and "American Indian or Alaska Native" racial categories. These examples were selected as they represent the largest population groups within each of the geographically diverse population groups of each category, as defined by the 1997 OMB Standards.

The detailed Asian and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander checkboxes were reordered by population size. 

The checkbox category “Guamanian or Chamorro” was changed to “Chamorro” based on research and positive feedback from stakeholders.

The write-in instructions for the "Some Other Race" category were updated to better solicit detailed reporting. The 2019 ACS form included the instruction to "Print race," the instruction used in the 2020 ACS was updated to "Print race or origin” to correspond with the overall question instruction to “Mark (X) one or more boxes AND print origins.” 

Additionally, improvements were made to the way write-in responses to the race question were processed and coded. The number of characters captured in each write-in area was increased from 30 to 200. Instead of prioritizing multiple responses into only two codes, up to six detailed codes for each write-in area were coded.

Beginning in 2020, any data comparisons to prior race estimates should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the race question and the ways we code what people tell us. However, please note that the Census Bureau does not recommend data users compare the 2020 1-year experimental ACS estimates with our standard ACS estimates.

The improvements made to the 2020 ACS race question design, processing, and coding are similar to changes made in the 2020 Census, which are presented in the blog entitled, ‘Improvements to the 2020 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Question Designs, Data Processing, and Coding Procedures’.  

Page Last Revised - November 24, 2021
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