March 2023 – Advocacy Action Alert : MENA


When it comes to federal data collection, current options for self-identification do not address increases in racial diversity, expansion of individuals who identify with more than one race or changing immigration patterns in the United States.

Specifically, federal government data collection methods currently lack an option for people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent. Thus, the MENA community is left with no choice but to report as “White,” despite not sharing the same experiences as White individuals of European descent.

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requesting comment on the proposed addition of a new reporting category for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent. The proposal from the Federal Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards for revising OMB’s 1997 Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (SPD 15) (62 FR 58782) would improve the quality of race and ethnicity data collected to better serve our communities.

SPD 15 was last revised more than 25 years ago. Since then, there have been significant societal, political, economic, and demographic shifts in our nation’s population to consider.

While the proposal would add a separate reporting category for the MENA population, additional revisions are also included in the proposal:

  • Add an additional category under the Black or African-American reporting section to allow for descendants of enslaved Americans to identify themselves.
  • Add a section to allow for more region-specific data to understand group differences. For example, instead of the entire Asian population falling under an “Asian” category, there will be an opportunity to report the specific country they are from (e.g., Japan, Cambodia, China, etc.).
  • Add a category to allow for multi-race individuals to properly identify themselves.

Categorizing the more than five million MENA Americans living in the United States as “White” leads to underserving and underrepresentation. The Senior Alliance supports efforts to add MENA to the federally recognized demographic categories. To submit a formal comment, click here.


Submit a formal public comment in support of adding a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category to the federally recognized demographic categories. 

As always, we encourage you to add in personal stories or mention how this has affected someone you may know. A positive response to these proposals will lead to better standards on collecting race and ethnicity data that can be used to better serve our Michigan communities.

Comments can be made by clicking the link below:

Submit a Formal Comment Here


I support adding a separate federal reporting category for the Middle Eastern and North African population (MENA). The addition of a MENA category will have a positive effect on the more than five million MENA Americans living across the United States through accurate recognition and representation.

The addition of the MENA category will provide accurate governmental data for an entire population who is otherwise not represented. The lack of accurate data collection causes MENA communities to experience severe cultural and linguistic barriers when accessing government services and programs.

Addition of a MENA category will provide MENA Americans representation in federal programs, initiatives, and policy. It is time for the federal government to recognize MENA communities. 

Thank you for supporting MENA Americans through improved federal reporting and data collection.

Please contact Emma Olson, Planning and Advocacy Assistant, with any advocacy or public policy questions via e-mail at


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Categories: Advocacy Alerts