Updated: Jun 10
At the end of January, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Biden White House proposed new reporting categories for a combined ethnic and racial identity question on the 2030 Census. For the first time, it would include a Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) category.
Aiming to disaggregate peoples originating from Morocco to Iran from the “White” category, this development builds on decades of community organizing, as well as earlier changes proposed by the Obama administration but eliminated by Trump’s. That said, the definition of the MENA region, its indigenous and transnational groups, and the language of Census questions remains contested. As such, the OMB solicited public comment on proposed language from February through April, held three town halls, and will engage in an ongoing conversation with community, policy, and lobbying groups moving forward.
Many Arab, Armenian, and Iranian groups have welcomed this change as a way to disaggregate our communities from the White category and better reflect experiences of discrimination in immigration/naturalization, housing, healthcare, and popular media. The creation of a MENA category might also serve as a stopgap for the shift in Federal Title VI funding away from half a dozen Middle East Studies programs. In addition, this federal reporting would augment developments in Asian American, Ethnic, American, and Middle East Studies centering MENA/SWANA diasporas and race.