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The U.S. is changing how it categorizes people by race and ethnicity for the time in 27 years, an initiative that will include the possibility for people to identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.

The revision was announced on Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget and will also include the categories Middle Eastern and North African.

According to The Associated Press, questions about race and ethnicity previously asked separately will now be combined into a single one, allowing respondents to choose multiple categories at the same time.

Up until now, the questions for this demographic were two: they were asked whether they were Hispanic or Latino and then told to choose a race: white, Black, American Indian or another.

The outlet pointed at research showing that large amounts of Latinos aren't sure how to answer the race question when asked separately because they "understand race and ethnicity to be similar and they often pick 'some other race' or do not answer the question.

On the 2020 census, more than four in ten Latinos (42%) marked "some other race," while a third chose "two or more racial groups" and 20% selected White, the Pew Research Center showed.

The two new categories will have subcategories; among the ones listed for Hispanic or Latino are "Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan."

For the Middle Eastern or North African category, subcategories include "Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Israeli etc." Results from the 2020 census show that some 3.5 million U.S. residents identify as coming from this region.

Now, the existing categories are the following: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Middle Eastern or North African, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and White.

"These updated standards are going to help us create more useful, accurate and up-to-date federal data on race and ethnicity," said an official with the Office of Management and Budget, according to NBC News.

"And these revisions will enhance our ability to compare information and data across federal agencies and also understand again how our federal programs are serving a diverse America," the official said.

The changes were made effective on Thursday and agencies have 18 months to comply and up to five years to put plans in place, the OMB added.

The revisions were developed by a working group and including staff from 35 agencies. It received more than 20,000 comments after first recommending them in January last year. It held 94 "listening sessions," three virtual town halls and a tribal consultation on its proposed revisions, the agency said.

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