Middle East and North Africa May Become New Ethnic Category in U.S.

U.S. Census Bureau considering new ethnic category in light of campaign.

Census form
Census form Dreamstime

The United States Census Bureau is considering adding a new ethnic category for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent, the Pew Research Center reported Monday.

People of MENA origin have historically identified as white on census forms, but in 2010, activists launched a campaign urging people to check “some other race” on the form and write in their ancestry. The campaign’s slogan was, “Check it right; you ain’t white!" Pew reported.

The Census Bureau estimates that there are about 1.8 million Arab-Americans in the United States, double the number in 2000. The Arab American Institute, which is taking a leading part in efforts to establish the new ethnic category, claims there are actually 3.7 million Arab Americans claiming ties to 22 different countries and religions.

It is unclear if and when the new category will appear, but community leaders are hoping it will be included by 2020. Any change must be submitted to Congress by 2017 and approved by the Office of Management and Budget in the Bureau.