Federal Data Collection:

Agencies' Use of Consistent Race and Ethnic Definitions

GGD-93-25: Published: Dec 15, 1992. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies' definitions of race and ethnicity in data collection, focusing on causes for inconsistent reporting of race and ethnic data.

GAO found that: (1) agencies used standard definitions in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) only monitored the agencies' methodologies for data collection and not the results of the data collection; (2) agencies' extensive use of Census Bureau support and products, which complied with OMB guidance, helped ensure uniformity; (3) the Departments of Justice and Education had consistency problems in their statistical reports because they used data collected by nonfederal entities which were not governed by federal guidance; (4) Justice compensated for the inconsistent reporting by state and local governments by noting deviations in its reports and by periodically surveying some populations to measure those unaccounted for; (5) Education had problems with states not completely reporting the racial and ethnic makeup of their student populations, particularly for those of mixed parentage; and (6) there were inconsistency problems when observers classified an individual's race or ethnicity, rather than having the individual classify its race.

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