AMA endorses multiple racial/ethnic checklist for 2000 Census

On August 1, 1997, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially endorsed the recommendation of the federal Interagency Committee for the Review of the Racial and Ethnic Standards to change Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Statistical Directive 15 to allow respondents to check one or more boxes when answering the race/ethnicity questions on the 2000 Census and other government forms. In a letter to Katherine K. Wallman, chief statistician at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the OMB, the AMA stated that "permitting multiple self-designation allows health service researchers to differentiate more accurately among different subgroups of research participants."

AMA President Percy Wootton, M.D., emphasized that "the alarming lack of sufficient bone marrow donors for multiracial/multiethnic cancer patients...can be linked, in part, to an inability to better classify their genetic, racial and ethnic backgrounds." He also noted that "clinical research trials and epidemiological research will benefit from more detail about racial and ethnic backgrounds of research participants."

Ramona Douglass, president of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA), has received a copy of the AMA's endorsement, and applauds the AMA "for its professional integrity and wisdom in encouraging our government to code all race/ethnicity categories checked by the respondent, rather than forming systems for coding only two or three."

AMEA, which has long advocated changing OMB Directive 15, and its allied groups, have already expressed support for the recommendations of the Interagency Committee, regarding them as a tremendous breakthrough for multiracial, multiethnic people who, under the "check-one-only" rule of the present Directive 15 (adopted 1977), have been unable to accurately identify their mixed ancestry. AMEA conveyed its support for the recommendations at a hearing of the the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology July 25, 1997. At the same hearing, the NAACP and members of the Congressional Black Caucus also expressed their support for the Interagency Committee's recommendations.

AMA Letter to OMB August 1, 1997