“Two or More” is now more accurately described as “Other” when it comes to the new Census EEO Tabulation 2014-2018 (5-year ACS data). As far as we can tell, though, the “Other” category can and should still be used to calculate the total number of people of color (non-Whites*).
We are all familiar with the six race (non-Hispanic) categories used for EEO-1 reporting: White; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; Asian; Native American or Alaska Native; and “Two or More Races.” For obvious reasons, these are the race categories employers use when soliciting race self-identification.
And if an employee declines to self-identify, or gets cheeky and instead of checking one or more of the categories on the self-ID form they write in “Mickey Mouse,” employers have an obligation to nonetheless report them in one of the official categories so that there aren’t any blanks or “Mickey Mouses” in our HR data.
However, the Census Bureau does not have the luxury of going back to people for clarification and, unlike employers, has no obligation to shove respondents into one of the official categories. Whatever people indicate on their Census form is what gets stored in the Census database.
How “Others” Were Handled Before
For the EEO Tabulation 2006-2010 (5-year ACS data) files that federal contractors have been using to prepare their AAPs for the last decade (roughly), the Census Bureau created a “Two or More” race category that included anyone who indicated more than one (non-Hispanic) race category.
One could fall into the “Two or More” bucket by, for instance, checking the box for “White” and writing in “Asian,” or by checking “Black” and “White.” Presumably, one could also fall into this bucket by not checking any box for race or ethnicity and writing in “multiracial” or something else that indicated multiple (non-Hispanic) races.
But what about people who write in “Mickey Mouse” or refuse to disclose their race/ethnicity at all?
Those were relegated to a bucket labeled, “balance.” In other words, there has always been a small population of “others” that can’t be placed into one of the official race/ethnicity categories for one reason or another. The population in this bucket was very small and most people simply ignored it, which was a reasonable and statistically sound decision.
How “Others” Are Handled Now
This time around, however, the Census did not break out “Two or More” from the “balance.” According to their FAQs, they simply provide data on five (non-Hispanic) race categories and a sixth catch-all category they refer to as “a residual group” labeled “Balance of not Hispanic or Latino.”
So in the new data, “Two or Mores” are mixed in with what are accurately described as the “unknowns.” From the FAQs, “’Balance of Not Hispanic or Latino’ includes the balance of non-Hispanic individuals who reported multiple races or reported Some Other Race alone.”
Note the Hungarian notation for “Some Other Race” in that FAQ. They are not describing a scenario or circumstance, they are using a proper name like a defined term. That definition is a bit elusive but can be teased out through a close reading of Census Bureau materials. “Some Other Race” means that the respondent indicated something other than one of the defined race categories.
So, for instance, if I wrote in “Purple” for race on my Census form, I would be included in the “balance.” The trouble is, these effective “unknowns” are now being mixed in with a growing population of people who are known to be “multiracial” and therefore known to be non-White. And that will have an impact on federal contractors’ minority goals.
How big of an impact is it? We don’t know because the Census Bureau no longer breaks out these categories. But in the 2006-2010 ACS data we know that the population in the “Two or More” category was almost twice the size of the population in the “balance” (the unknowns). However, together the “Two or More” and “balance” from that data comprise just under 1.5% of the overall population, so the impact should not be game-changing.
Should Contractors Set Placement Goals for “Two or More/Other?”
It remains a bit of an open question as to whether or not federal contractors should even consider an individual race/ethnicity placement goal for the “Two or More/Other” category. Your lawyers will likely argue that “Two or More/Other” is not actually a race category. Rather, it is a “reporting convention,” and therefore should not be the basis for placement goals or employment selection monitoring.
The OFCCP, on the other hand, likely feels differently, but hasn’t come out with much guidance either way and to date has not taken a strong stance. To be fair, the issue does not arise often and, when it does, the agency is quick to realize that there may not be much for contractors to do after setting such a goal. For instance, there are unlikely to be many outreach and recruiting organizations that specifically target “multiracial” workers like there are for women, Hispanics, etc.
That is not to say that discrimination against employees based on their multiracial status is not an issue. Common sense tells us that it is. In fact, it is more than possible for a decision-maker to hold no animosity toward any particular race/ethnicity group but for that person to have a problem with any “mixing” of races. But it is highly unlikely that standard AAP analyses will ever uncover such attitudes because the numbers are still just too small. Although the new, 2014-2018 ACS data does not break out “Two or More” separately, it is unlikely to be more than 2% of the overall population.
The OFCCP’s regulations certainly allow for contractors to set placement goals for any of the race/ethnicity categories, including “Two or More,” if they so choose. Recently, the OFCCP has read that section of the regulations to give the agency the authority to require a contractor to set such a goal if the agency determines it is necessary.
That authority is questionable, at best, but to the extent that it exists, in only exists insofar as the OFCCP demands that a contractor start setting such goals on a going-forward basis. The regulations are quite clear that it is the contractor’s option, so there can be no violation for not having done so in the past.
*Note that BCGi follows longstanding EEOC guidance and capitalizes all official race/ethnicity categories regardless of whether or not the category description is a proper noun.