Hearing on Multiracial Identification

Statement of Representative Tom Petri
U.S. House of Representatives

Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology
of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight

Hearing on Multiracial Identification
25 July 1997


Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing and continuing to take an interest in the issue of racial categorization.

Last April I testified before this committee on behalf of my bill H.R. 830 to add a multiracial category to the census and other federal forms which ask respondents to categorize themselves by race. In the course of that testimony I briefly mentioned some concerns with how the data would be tabulated if, instead of a multiracial category we were to allow people to check more than one of the existing categories. As you know, the Office of Management and Budget recently issued its preliminary recommendations which indeed call for a "check all that apply" system.

I want to reemphasize that there should be at least one compilation of data from the race issue on the census in which the total is not greater than 100% and therefore, in which multiracial individuals are included as a separate group. The numbers can be tabulated in several different ways, of course, and if the Bureau wants to publish information about how many people checked off a certain category, including multiracials who checked off that one and another, I have no particular objection. If that is done with each of the categories, those who checked off more than one category may be okay. For other purposes however, it is necessary, in order for policymakers to get a clear picture of the situation, that the individual categories do not add to more than 100% of the total. Thus we need one complilation in which multiracial individuals who have checked more than one box are counted in their own category and only in that category.

These two ways of compiling the data and perhaps others are not mutually exclusive. I have been briefed by OMB officials on their plans for compiling the data and was encouraged. Officials there seem to be aware of the need for data in which multiracial individuals are not grouped together separately from the other categories. Although I would like to see a separate box on the form for the multiracial community, counting separately those who have checked more than one box comes close and, if the OMB follows through, would accomplish the goals of H.R. 830.

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