Classifying race and origin
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Classifying race and origin

Census ACS Data

Reporting race/origin is a challenge because this question is handled quite differently across and within organizations, and because it's not simple to figure out the helpful approach to the end-users of the data. There are concerns that the way Census poses questions of race makes it difficult to assess ethnic identity fairly, as explained in this Washington Post article and illustrated with survey questions in this NPR Report.

ACS Microdata

We have chosen to combine the race and Hispanic origin questions posed by Census to produce the following race/origin categories for Census data originating from ACS microdata data:

  • White
  • Black or African American
  • Asian
  • Hispanic
  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • Other
  • Multiracial

Because of the way that the survey questions are posed, people who identify as Hispanic can also identify as any other race at the same time. We assigned any person identifying as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish to the Hispanic group, and did not double-count those individuals as having a separate race as well. This definition matches up well with our student population data from IPEDS (see below).

ACS Summary data

When we use ACS summary data to describe smaller geographies, race is categorized a little differently. ACS chooses to apply Hispanic origin only to those who identify themselves as White, dividing the White population into "White and Hispanic", and "White and not Hispanic".

IPEDS higher education data

Currently, IPEDS reports race and ethnicity in nine non-overlapping categories:

  • Hispanic (including those with any race and Hispanic origin)
  • White
  • Black or African American
  • Asian
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Two or more races
  • Nonresident Alien (race or ethnicity is not noted for international individuals)
  • Race and Ethnicity unknown

These categories were implemented in the 2008-2009 collection year, and only people who do not identify as Hispanic or international are asked to further identify race. In prior years, people chose between seven race categories concurrently, and only black and white races were specified as strictly non-Hispanic. Prior to 2008, the Asian and Pacific Islander categories were combined as Asian/Pacific Islander. In an effort to provide clear visual information, Ididio maintains the Asian label for the combined Asian/Pacific Islander population that appears in early data. Additionally, two or more races was not a possible response prior to 2008. Institutions could elect to use the early race/ethnicity categories until the 2009-2010 reporting year.