Federal Data Collection:

Measuring Race and Ethnicity Is Complex and Controversial

T-GGD-93-21: Published: Apr 14, 1993. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1993.

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GAO discussed the Census Bureau's collection of race and ethnicity data in the 1990 census. GAO noted that: (1) the 1990 Decennial Census underscored the importance of race and ethnic questions; (2) the Bureau has limited time to improve the race and ethnic questions for the 2000 census due to delays in scheduled activities; (3) the data from the 1990 race and Hispanic origin questions were of high quality, although there were some problems with collecting data on Hispanics; (4) there is concern that the Bureau will not be prepared for 1995 tests of race and ethnic questions due to research delays; (5) federal agencies generally used consistent race and ethnic definitions, but inconsistent use of race and ethnic terms occurred when agencies used different methods to identify a person's race or ethnicity; and (6) inadequacies and inconsistencies in federal race and ethnic data were due to operational problems, but agencies generally used consistent race and ethnic definitions in designing data instruments and methodologies.

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