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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Middle Easterners-United States, North Africans-United States, United States-Census 2020, United States-Census 2020-Methodology, United States-Census 2020-Law and legislation, Race, Ethnicity, Assimilation, Census


This paper explores the implications of adding a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category to the 2020 United States Census. Pressure for this change is led by MENA organizations contending that the current lack of a MENA category on the census eliminates important opportunities for federal funding and political representation. Additionally, many MENA activists and organizations claim that the Census Bureau’s current categorization of MENA individuals as “white” does not correspond to the lived experiences MENA individuals face in a post-9/11 era, where discrimination and hate crimes directed towards MENA populations continues to rise. The historical context of both the census and race-based citizenship hearings are presented within this analysis in order to contextualize the environment in which the racial and ethnic categorization of MENA individuals came to fall within the category of “white” on the census, a categorization that now conflicts with the representational goals of many within the MENA population. Historical examples of the pathways to inclusion on the census of other minority groups are used to assess the likely outcome of the push to include a MENA category on the 2020 Census. Notably, this goal has taken shape among a prominent MENA organization as an effort to include a MENA ethnicity category, not a MENA race category. Using the example of the Hispanic category on the census, I conclude that a MENA ethnicity category, without a MENA race category, will still fall short of capturing an accurate count of the MENA population in the United States.




80 pages : map. Honors project, Smith College. 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 75-80)