Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the United States Census Bureau and the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are of Hispanic or Latino origin (ethnicity). 
The racial categories represent a social-political construct designed for the race or races that respondents consider themselves to be and "generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country." The OMB defines the concept of race as outlined for the US Census as not "scientific or anthropological" and takes into account "social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry" using "appropriate scientific methodologies" but not "primarily biological or genetic in reference."
Race and ethnicity are considered separate and distinct identities, with Hispanic or Latino origin asked as a separate question. Thus, in addition to their race or races, all respondents are categorized by membership in one of two ethnicities: Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino. In 1997, OMB issued a Federal Register Notice which provided revised racial and ethnic definitions.
Race was asked differently in the Census 2000 in several ways than previously. Most significantly, respondents were given the option of selecting one or more race categories to indicate their racial identities. Data show that nearly seven million Americans identified themselves as members of two or more races. Because of these changes, the Census 2000 data on race are not directly comparable with data from the 1990 census or earlier censuses. Caution must be used when interpreting changes in the racial composition of the US population over time.
|The 7th federal census, in 1850, asked for Color and gave the choices:|
|The 10th federal census, in 1880, asked for Color and gave the choices:|
|The 22nd federal census, in 2000, had a "short form" that asked one ethnic and one race/ancestry question:|
1. Is the person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?
2. What is the person's race?
This census acknowledged that "race categories include both racial and national-origin groups."
The following definitions apply to the 2000 census only.
See also: Pacific Islander.
The Federal government of the United States has mandated that "in data collection and presentation, federal agencies are required to use a minimum of two ethnicities: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino."" The Census Bureau defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race." For discussion of the meaning and scope of the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, see the Hispanic and Latino Americans and Racial and ethnic demographics of the United States articles.
Use of the word ethnicity for Hispanicity only is considerably more restricted than its conventional meaning, which covers other distinctions, some of which are covered by the "race" and "ancestry" questions. The distinct questions accommodate the possibility of Hispanic and Latino Americans' also declaring various racial identities (see also White Hispanic and Latino Americans, Asian Latinos, and Black Hispanic and Latino Americans).
In 2001, the National Institutes of Health adopted the new language to comply with the revisions to Directive 15, as did the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US Department of Labor in 2007. See Race and ethnicity (EEO).
The Census Bureau warns that data on race in Census 2000 are not directly comparable to those collected in previous censuses. It has also been noted that many US residents see race and ethnicity as the same concept.
|% of Not|
& Pacific Is.
The 2010 US Census will have changes designed to more clearly distinguish the Hispanic ethnicity as not being a race. That may include adding the sentence: "For this census, Hispanic origins are not races." Additionally, the Hispanic terms will be reordered from "Hispanic or Latino" to "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin".