The Metro: Middle Eastern, North African category added to US census and federal government surveys

Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents identify as Middle Eastern and North African based on 2020 census data.

U.S. Census online form.

For decades, Arab Americans have been advocating for a new Middle East and North African category in the U.S. Census. That’s because the census has been recognizing people from MENA countries as white.

However, the Biden administration approved proposals for a new response option for “Middle Eastern or North African” and a “Hispanic or Latino” box for the U.S. Census and on all federal government surveys.

Matt Jaber Stifler, director of the Center for Arab Narratives at ACCESS, the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the U.S., joined The Metro to discuss what this means for Arab Americans.

The new categories will provide more specific data, Jaber Stifler says.

“For the Middle Eastern North African community, which in metro Detroit is majority, the Arabic speaking populations they have since the 1960s [have] just been lumped into the white racial category,” Jaber Stifler said.

Questions about race and ethnicity will now be combined into a single question, the Associated Press reports. People will also be able to select multiple categories at once. Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents identify as Middle Eastern and North African based on 2020 census data.

Data can be used by organizations and local governments to identify and improve issues in Middle Eastern or North African communities.

“This is something that people have been wanting for many, many decades. We almost had it a few years ago and then it went away,” stated Jaber Stifler. “And we’re just happy it’s here. We know there’s a lot more work to be done to make sure it’s implemented correctly, but we’re gonna celebrate for now.”

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