January 27, 2023

NIAC Statement on Biden’s MENA Category Recommendations

Washington, DC – The Biden administration is proposing major changes to forms for the 2030 census and federal government surveys. This includes the adoption of a new Middle Eastern and North African category on the Census.This move would transform how people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent are counted in statistics across the United States. 

The National Iranian American Council applauds this announcement and hopes that the Biden administration will follow through on this promising step forward. These efforts are a crucial step in getting accurate data and research for Iranian-Americans which will strengthen our community and its advocacy efforts. 

For years, Iranian Americans have had to either select another category, like white, or write in Iranian American. Such poor options led to a systematic undercounting of our community. Additionally, the proposal would change the government’s definition of “White” to no longer include people with MENA origins. The U.S. government currently categorizes people with MENA origins as white, even though many people within that category do not identify as white people. 

NIAC has long advocated for a Census category that can ensure Iranian Americans are counted as a community, especially in congressional districts where high numbers of Iranians reside but are often discounted by their elected representatives. We currently do not have broad, comparable methods of counting and analyzing data specific to our community – data which can make a huge difference in the development of public policy. 

The establishment of a MENA category would finally begin to address a gap for communities like ours in research and policymaking on subjects like health outcomes, socioeconomic conditions, and civic engagement. By accurately counting and securing representation for the Iranian American community in the census, a MENA Category could help obtain additional community benefits from federal agencies like the Small Business Administration.

Back to top