ACS Detailed Race questions

I’m wondering when the new “detailed race” data will be added for the 2020 and 2021 ACS samples. It looks like detailed race write-ins under “White” and “Black” race groups were added to the survey in 2020, but the detailed race variable (RACED) does not yet have those codes. Thanks!

When mentioning the detailed race write-ins being added to the survey in 2020, are you referring to the redesigned race question that allows respondents to print their origins after selecting their race? While the question on race was changed in order to capture more information when people didn’t fully understand the instructions, the coded race categories themselves were not. The write-in responses are not released verbatim in the public use microdata, but are released as coded versions, in some cases with additional detail such as in the detailed race subgroups in RAC2P and RAC3P from Asian, Pacific Islander, and American Indian respondents; codes for similar subgroups are not released for White (e.g. German) or Black (e.g. Nigerian) respondents. To create RACE and RACED, IPUMS uses data from the publicly released variables RACE1P, RAC2P, and RAC3P (see the 2021 ACS PUMS data dictionary). You may be able to obtain the original write-in data by applying to access the restricted use data through an FSRDC. Alternatively, the variables ANCESTR1 and ANCESTR2 provide detailed ancestry information that may be comparable to the write-in origins in RACE.

Thanks for this information! Yes, I am referring to the redesigned race question. Do you have any word on whether the recoded responses for White and Black responses will eventually be added to the microdata? If not, any advice on the best way to advocate for that change?

It sounds like the Census Bureau is considering removing the Ancestry question, and without either that or the detailed race response recodes, we will not have a good way to identify East African populations in Minnesota, which is a critical disaggregation for any demographic work. We are currently using the Ancestry question for population profiles like this one for the Minnesota Somali population.

I’d appreciate any updates on the Census Bureau’s plans, or any partnership in advocacy!


I do not currently have any information on whether new detailed race codes will be added to the public microdata to identify respondents who wrote-in an ethnic origin after checking the White or Black response box for race. This Census forum post states that a Federal Register Notice (FRN) will be released in the fall of 2023 to outline initial recommendations regarding replacing the ethnicity question with race, describe potential effects on data products, and release the estimated size of all ancestry groups using detailed race data. Since the forum post proposes identifying ethnic origins using information from race, it is likely that detailed race groups will be made available in future census data products. However, it is not currently clear what form this will take and whether these will be released in the public microdata or only be available in summary census tables. The forum post also states that there will be a public comment period. We try to share FRNs with data users via our newsletter and will keep following this so we can alert users to opportunities for comment.