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U.S. Census mulling changes in forms

Aug. 31, 2012 at 4:59 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The next U.S. Census form may allow respondents to pick "Hispanic" as their race, officials say.

The U.S. Census Bureau is also considering giving people whose roots are in the Middle East or North Africa the option to write in the country of origin, The Seattle Times reported. The bureau tested those proposals and others on a special version of the 2010 form that went to 500,000 households.

Questions about race and ethnic origins are possibly the most contentious on the Census questionnaire. In recent decades, Hispanics have been asked to designate that as an ethnic group and also to select a race.

Analysts say that in 2010 many Hispanics seem to have found the questions confusing, generally skipping the racial question or answering "some other race."

The Census questionnaire must be approved by Congress. The information it generates plays a major role in deciding where federal aid goes.

"As much as we hope we become a country where these racial distinctions don't matter -- and that's a worthy goal -- it is central to how we understand ourselves as a people and how we decide who has opportunity, rights, privileges and protection under the law," said Luis Fraga, head of the University of Washington's Diversity Research Institute.

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