Are Arab-Americans White? Implications and Perspectives of the US Census

Spring 2022 Honorable Mention for the People's Choice Award

By: Eleanor Jaffe-Pachuilo, Osvaldo Sanchez Fernandez, Rachelle Bishay, Samantha Solis

The year is 2029 and you are the 27th Director of the US Census Bureau. The next Census is in 2030 and you need to make a crucial decision regarding the adage of a new racial category on the census: Middle Eastern and North African (MENA). Will you decide to add this category or not?

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In the most recent 2020 US census, MENA individuals were classified as white. This has social implications and prevents necessary research, funding, and information that would benefit MENA communities in the United States. The five categories put in the US 2020 Census are white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, and Native American or Pacific Islander. These classifications limit U.S. residents to categories of racial identities they may not resonate with or self-identify as (Bayoumi, 2019). Arab Americans’ invisibility as a minority group in the census makes it harder to provide specific treatment and allocate resources that are needed on both a biological and social basis.

In our interactive website, we approach this issue by presenting the viewer with the options to explore the various biological and social aspects of classifying MENA Americans. First, we will examine the biological aspect of genetic ancestry and weigh in on its value and impact when it comes to racial categorization. We explore the idea of what makes up a race, the role genetic ancestry plays in race (if any), and the social consequences of racial categorization. We also focus on the unique characteristics of the MENA community and what those characteristics mean for community outcomes. We present the scientific research, social research, and personal experiences to answer if Arab Americans should have a unique racial categorization or be reduced to a subcategory of the European-American, white experience.

Bayoumi, M. (2019, February 14). I’m a Brown Arab-American, and the US Census Refuses to Recognize Me. The Guardian. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from

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