A Clinton administration task force rejected Tuesday a campaign to add a “multiracial” classification to the 2000 census but recommended allowing mixed-race Americans for the first time to check off more than one racial category.
Plunging into a contentious cultural debate, the 30-agency task force unanimously opposed a change sought by Americans of mixed racial heritage who object to identifying themselves as members of a single race.
Instead, the interagency committee recommended that the government retain the four racial categories currently in use but enable individuals to claim membership in more than one racial group when responding to the Census and other federal data solicitations.
Although studies have indicated fewer than 2 percent of Americans would identify themselves as mixed-race, their ranks are growing as interracial marriages become more common. Some groups representing mixed-race Americans fear that unless the government creates a separate category for them, it will be difficult to chart their numbers and provide them with adequate protection from some forms of discrimination.
The White House will make a final decision on the issue in 60 days. So far, there has been no indication that it would overrule the interagency group’s recommendations, which are based on four years of study.
The new classifications would be used not only for the 2000 Census but throughout government by agencies as diverse as the Education Department, the Center for Disease Control and the Justice Department.
“It is significant that the report is unanimous and is based on an exhaustive review,” said Sally Katzen, an administrator for the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is charged with producing the final, government-wide standards on racial and ethnic classification.