Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
DIRECTIVE NO. 15
Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics
and Administrative Reporting
(as adopted on May 12, 1977)
This Directive provides standard classifications for record keeping, collection, and
presentation of data on race and ethnicity in Federal program administrative reporting and
statistical activities. These classifications should not be interpreted as being scientific or
anthropological in nature, nor should they be viewed as determinants of eligibility for
participation in any Federal program. They have been developed in response to needs
expressed by both the executive branch and the Congress to provide for the collection and
use of compatible, nonduplicated, exchangeable racial and ethnic data by Federal
The basic racial and ethnic categories for Federal statistics and program
administrative reporting are defined as follows:
- American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having
origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintains
cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community
- Asian or Pacific Islander. A person having origins in
any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian
subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example,
China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
- Black. A person having origins in any of the black racial
groups of Africa.
- Hispanic. A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban,
Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless
- White. A person having origins in any of the original
peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.
2. Utilization for Record keeping and Reporting
To provide flexibility, it is preferable to collect data on race and ethnicity
separately. If separate race and ethnic categories are used, the minimum designations are:
-- American Indian or Alaskan Native
--Asian or Pacific Islander
--Not of Hispanic origin
When race and ethnicity are collected separately, the number of White and Black persons
who are Hispanic must be identifiable, and capable of being reported in that category.
If a combined format is used to collect racial and ethnic data, the minimum
acceptable categories are:
--American Indian or Alaskan Native
--Asian or Pacific Islander
--Black, not of Hispanic origin
--White, not of Hispanic origin.
The category which most closely reflects the individual's recognition in his
community should be used for purposes of reporting on persons who are of mixed racial
and/or ethnic origins.
In no case should the provisions of this Directive be construed to limit the
collection of data to the categories described above. However, any reporting required
which uses more detail shall be organized in such a way that the additional categories can
be aggregated into these basic racial/ethnic categories.
The minimum standard collection categories shall be utilized for reporting as
- Civil rights compliance reporting. The categories specified
above will be used by all agencies in either the separate or combined
format for civil rights compliance reporting and equal employment
reporting for both the public and private sectors and for all levels of
government. Any variation requiring less detailed data or data which
cannot be aggregated into the basic categories will have to be
specifically approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for
executive agencies. More detailed reporting which can be aggregated to
the basic categories may be used at the agencies' discretion.
- General program administrative and grant reporting. Whenever
an agency subject to this Directive issues new or revised administrative
reporting or record keeping requirements which include racial or ethnic
data, the agency will use the race/ethnic categories described above. A
variance can be specifically requested from OMB, but such a variance will
be granted only if the agency can demonstrate that it is not reasonable
for the primary reporter to determine the racial or ethnic background in
terms of the specified categories, and that such determination is not
critical to the administration of the program in question, or if the
specific program is directed to only one or a limited number of
race/ethnic groups, e.g., Indian tribal activities.
- Statistical reporting. The categories described in this
Directive will be used at a minimum for federally sponsored statistical
data collection where race and/or ethnicity is required, except when: the
collection involves a sample of such size that the data on the smaller
categories would be unreliable, or when the collection effort focuses on a
specific racial or ethnic group. A repetitive survey shall be deemed to
have an adequate sample size if the racial and ethnic data can be reliably
aggregated on a biennial basis. Any other variation will have to be
specifically authorized by OMB through the reports clearance process. In
those cases where the data collection is not subject to the reports
clearance process, a direct request for a variance should be made to OMB.
3. Effective Date
The provisions of this Directive are effective immediately for
all new and revised
record keeping or reporting requirements containing racial and/or ethnic information. All
existing record keeping or reporting requirements shall be made consistent with this
Directive at the time they are submitted for extension, or not later than January 1, 1980.
4. Presentation of Race/Ethnic Data
Displays of racial and ethnic compliance and statistical data will use the category
designations listed above. The designation "nonwhite" is not acceptable for use in the
presentation of Federal Government data. It is not to be used in any publication of
compliance or statistical data or in the text of any compliance or statistical report.
In cases where the above designations are considered inappropriate for
presentation of statistical data on particular programs or for particular regional areas, the
sponsoring agency may use:
(1) The designations "Black and Other Races" or "All Other Races," as collective
descriptions of minority races when the most summary distinction between the majority
and minority races is appropriate;
(2) The designations "White," "Black,"and "All Other Races" when the distinction
among the majority race, the principal minority race and other races is appropriate; or
(3) The designation of a particular minority race or races, and the inclusion of
"Whites" with "All Other Races," if such a collective description is appropriate.
In displaying detailed information which represents a combination of race and
ethnicity, the description of the data being displayed must clearly indicate that both bases
of classification are being used.
When the primary focus of a statistical report is on two or more specific
identifiable groups in the population, one or more of which is racial or ethnic, it is
acceptable to display data for each of the particular groups separately and to describe data
relating to the remainder of the population by an appropriate collective description.
Source: Excerpt from
accessed on August 8, 2005.