Disaggregating Race/Ethnicity Information Classes: Criticisms, Risks, And Opposing Viewpoints

Conducting well being fairness analysis depends on full, correct details about race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, information high quality points, together with race/ethnicity misclassification and information incompleteness, stay challenges. Disaggregating the usual minimal US federal race (American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Different Pacific Islander, White) and ethnicity (Hispanic or Latino) classes into smaller teams could scale back lacking information on questionnaires, uncover well being inequities, and permit acceptable allocation of sources to satisfy group wants.

For these causes, the Robert Wooden Johnson Basis (RWJF) helps amassing and analyzing disaggregated race/ethnicity information, particularly in a well being context. Their Nationwide Fee to Remodel Public Well being Information Programs, in addition to quite a few coverage analyses and research findings, suggest city-, county-, and state-level insurance policies that enhance assortment of demographic data. This consists of utilizing race, ethnicity, and first language to determine and disaggregate regionally related race/ethnicity teams.

A latest success story for information disaggregation proponents is New York State Regulation S.6639-A/A.6896-A, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December 2021. This invoice requires state companies’ race/ethnicity questionnaires to incorporate disaggregated response choices for Asian People (AA) and Native Hawaiian or Different Pacific Islanders (NH/PI), permitting constituents to determine with a extra particular group. Examples of such teams underneath the AA class embrace Korean, Tibetan, and Pakistani, whereas the NH/PI class consists of Samoan and Marshallese. The signing coincides with heightened anti-Asian racism, and the disproportionate affect of COVID-19 on culturally and linguistically distinct AA and NH/PI communities.

This measure outcomes from broad assist and years of grassroots advocacy. Civil rights teams and AA and NH/PI leaders knowledgeable the textual content of S.6639-A/A.6896-A and successfully pushed its passage into legislation. Nonetheless, a small group of information disaggregation opponents have had their voices amplified in press protection surrounding the invoice, claiming the legislation will probably be used to divide Asians by decreasing their general measurement and subsequent political leverage.

These dissenting opinions are usually not new; they’ve hindered comparable laws proposed in different states and have even motivated makes an attempt to preemptively ban disaggregated information assortment. Under, we summarize opposing views that leaders and advocates ought to put together to deal with to advertise well-rounded, knowledgeable discourse as information disaggregation efforts transfer ahead. We additionally suggest present sources that intention to deal with pushback and information sustainable, systematic information disaggregation.

Privateness And Surveillance Issues

Widespread assortment of disaggregated race/ethnicity information on authorities questionnaires could spark privateness issues, particularly for members of smaller populations. For instance, stratifying well being and important statistics by disaggregated race/ethnicity and locality could inadvertently reveal respondents’ identities. It is crucial for reporting companies and information managers to tighten privateness procedures to keep away from re-identification. One choice is to suppress public information with cell sizes for confidentiality causes, whereas making these detailed information accessible upon request by researchers and organizations in search of to enhance emergency response companies and different efforts. Information suppression standards can fluctuate relying on confidentiality of people, statistical reliability, or information high quality.

Information disaggregation necessities may additionally provoke opposition from traditionally surveilled teams, because the census has been used to goal and hurt particular racial and ethnic teams. For instance, the “Mexican” race choice on the 1930 census aimed to monitor and segregate this rising immigrant group on the time. Over time, civil rights laws has labored towards establishing protections from such profiling however racial profiling stays a salient concern. Ongoing surveillance of Arab People, as an example, can result in non-response on demographic questionnaires, particularly questions with extra granular race/ethnicity classes. Regardless of previous misuse, the census is a crucial software for informing budgets, political redistricting, and useful resource allocation.

Consequently, disaggregation insurance policies ought to embrace native processes to transparently clarify the meant use of collected information. Coverage makers should work with trusted group companions to speak commitments to confidentiality. Neighborhood-based organizations could co-develop public schooling on how disaggregated information may match to fight systemic discrimination throughout sectors. Furthermore, insurance policies to coach and educate information managers, analysts, and collectors are essential to keep away from repeating or evoking previous harms for communities that now have increased distrust of governmental surveillance.

Political Power In Numbers

Proponents of aggregation argue it’s a supply of political energy and solidarity amongst smaller racial/ethnic teams. Because the census advanced into an essential mechanism for monitoring nationwide variety, advocacy teams within the Sixties mobilized assist from Spanish-speaking communities to advocate for a Hispanic ethnic class. Regardless of preliminary resistance to the perceived homogenization of all Spanish audio system, the Hispanic classification grew to become a necessary supply of solidarity and political energy. The concern of segregation from breaking down classes ought to be addressed by coverage makers by clear and nuanced useful resource allocation and communication.

The analysis institute, PolicyLink, has mentioned ideological underpinnings of the declare that disaggregation pits teams in opposition to one another, stating that this level is “extra a part of the broader ‘tradition wars’ and common political divisions within the nation than making a critique particular to public well being or demographic analysis.” This was a salient concern within the pushback in opposition to a proposed invoice, CA AB-1726, to disaggregate AA and NH/PI information in California. Some from the state’s Chinese language American group suspected that formalized recognition of traditionally missed communities, equivalent to Cambodian or Hmong People, would in the end deprioritize these of Chinese language origin for accessing sure sources and alternatives.

Researchers from the RAND Company urge a unified Asian American entrance within the wake of a three-fold enhance in anti-Asian hate crimes as a method to search assist for disaggregation. Their instructed advocacy platform illustrates that within-group variety doesn’t obviate political coalition constructing, whereas additionally demonstrating the significance of disaggregation to resist homogenization and stereotyping. Moreover, utilizing information to measure variety and fight stereotyping can spotlight distinctive well being wants which can be hid when information are aggregated.

Misinterpretation Of Outcomes

Racial and ethnic categorizations lack a organic foundation and are socially constructed. Nonetheless, there are arguments that presenting well being information by extra detailed race/ethnicity could perpetuate theories of organic inferiority and discriminatory conduct. Stratifying information into extra particular identities could lead some to pathologize ethnicities and cultures, somewhat than contextualize ethnic disparities as merchandise of structural inequities. Nonetheless, you will need to word that such misinterpretations are potential even when analyzing racial/ethnic variations underneath the present Workplace of Administration and Price range (OMB) normal.  

Hawai’i State Division of Well being officers mirrored on this problem throughout COVID-19 information assortment efforts on AA and NH/PI constituents: “Efforts had been designed to realize a steadiness between highlighting the issues of particular populations and inadvertently contributing to the stigmatization of teams who’ve been marginalized and who expertise racism.” Extra analysis is required to determine legitimate and dependable measures of structural racism that may be made broadly accessible. Such metrics will help reorient the general public notion of race and ethnicity as well being danger components, shifting the main focus to racism as a root trigger of disparities.

Evolving Perceptions Of Race And Ethnicity

The OMB, which units nationwide race/ethnicity reporting requirements, cites a lack of consensus in terminology as justification for the delays behind further racial/ethnic classes within the minimal federal reporting necessities. In 2018, OMB rejected the addition of a Center Jap and North African (MENA) People from the White race class, declaring that disagreement surrounding the MENA label would result in reporting inconsistencies.

Vital undercounting and inconsistent response charges at present happen underneath the present OMB requirements. Constrained race/ethnicity choices don’t match how people self-identify and are racialized, resulting in excessive charges of lacking information and growing number of the “Some Different Race” choice. “Some Different Race” responses are sometimes neglected of analyses and reporting, despite the fact that they might be meaningfully patterned. Moreover, phrases used to generally describe sure races and ethnicities are continuously in flux. For example, there was not frequent utilization of the time period “Hispanic” earlier than the OMB formally included it in federal reporting necessities in 1977. Even at present, choice between the phrases “Hispanic” and “Latino/a/x/e” varies enormously amongst members of this diaspora.

The United Nations (UN) Statistical Fee’s guidebook on information disaggregation affirms: “Ethnicity is multidimensional and is extra of a course of than a static idea, and so ethnic classification ought to be handled with moveable boundaries.” Whereas full settlement could by no means be achieved, native leaders, together with states, can set up procedures that permit for an everyday updating of labels primarily based on adjustments in race/ethnicity definitions, group preferences, and shifts within the inhabitants demographics.

Minimizing Hyperlinks Between Racism And Inequity

Over-reliance on self-reported ethnicity information could diminish the position of perceived race, or socially assigned race, when finding out the results of racism on well being. Perceptions of race primarily based on bodily look somewhat than language, tradition, or different points of ethnoracial id are essential for understanding this affiliation. For example, a latest research of MENA people’ self-reported race/ethnicity discovered that few of these with African ancestry, together with some Egyptians and Moroccans, “determine as Black no matter labels supplied, primarily based on how their phenotypes are perceived in america.” Nonetheless, most individuals most popular the MENA ethnic class and had been much less prone to choose an extra race when given the MENA choice. Some researchers are involved that establishing race/ethnicity response choices that align extra with self-identification than perceived race could inadvertently discourage reporting of “Black” or “White” race, labels which will really feel reductive for these with intersecting identities. This may increasingly restrict researchers’ means to judge outcomes associated to anti-Black racism in MENA and different multiracial populations.

To handle racism in opposition to these from the African diaspora, a UN Human Rights Council report requires international locations that don’t at present gather broad race information to implement the follow. The report additionally asserts the significance of disaggregating ethnic origin to “unpack and perceive the differentiated dynamics of systemic racism.” Leaders should have interaction with communities to debate racial/ethnic id and learn how to apply these phrases when finishing affected person consumption types and different questionnaires. Scripts and explainers through the information assortment course of can make clear the significance of reporting self-identity, in addition to socially assigned race, for understanding racism’s affect on well being. This additionally raises the significance of permitting a number of responses and in-depth evaluation of multiracial people.


Many present sources define information disaggregation coverage issues and navigate inevitable challenges for state and native leaders. PolicyLink, the RWJF, and the Workplace of the UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights have launched experiences on beneficial practices for disaggregating information, together with issues for stopping inequitable and nontransparent implementation of those insurance policies and practices. In utilizing these instruments, you will need to acknowledge that these insurance policies and practices may be inequitably applied and sustained.

These guides may be beginning factors for regionally tailor-made implementation plans. Equally, overviews of various assortment, administration, and evaluation strategies for disaggregating information can be found from establishments such the City Institute, College of California–Los Angeles, and Nationwide Discussion board on Schooling Statistics. Such sources are important for jurisdictions in search of to adapt particular person information governance methods to accommodate new classes and carry out significant information analyses.


As a result of present OMB-mandated race and ethnicity classes span racially and culturally various ethnic teams, information aggregation inevitably obscures within-group inequities. As the usual classes are solely minimal reporting necessities, the OMB recommends that localities determine precedence teams to incorporate in questionnaires. Regardless of this steering, there was restricted political will to speculate the time, sources, and energy wanted to implement extra progressive information assortment practices, in addition to opposition to makes an attempt to codify information disaggregation practices.

State and native resolution makers can now not ignore empirical proof accrued over years of public well being analysis that race/ethnicity disaggregation could have optimistic long-term and rapid advantages. Leaders have a duty to observe greatest practices for overcoming information disaggregation opposition. Finally, these efforts will strengthen their group ties, assist determine extra correct danger components of illness, and assist focused, culturally acceptable interventions within the pursuit of well being fairness.  

Authors’ Notice

This manuscript is part of the Improvements in Information Fairness for All Laboratory (IDEAL) initiative led by the NYU Heart for the Research of Asian American Well being and Coalition for Asian American Youngsters and Households with assist by colleagues from the New York Academy of Drugs, NYU Langone Well being, and the New York State Division of Well being. Work was supported partially by the NYU International Heart for Implementation Science Pilot Awards, Nationwide Institutes of Well being Nationwide Institute on Minority Well being and Well being Disparities Award No. U54MD000538, Nationwide Coronary heart, Lung, Blood Institute Neighborhood Engagement Alliance Non-Federal 1OT2HL156812–01, Westat Sub-OTA No. 6793–02-S013 and R01HL141427, Division of Well being and Human Companies, Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention Award Nos. NU38OT2020001477, CFDA No. 93.421 and 1NH23IP922639–01–00, CFDA No. 93.185 and New York State.