We’ve made two changes to the way we are now reporting COVID-19 data associated with race and ethnicity. Revising the methodology used to report demographic data for COVID-19 case rates in Whatcom County not only improves the clarity of the data reported, but it does so in a way that is more reflective of how individuals identify racially and ethnically.
Adding a “Multiracial” Category
We’ve added a multiracial grouping to ensure that each case of COVID-19 is only represented once. Under the former methodology, if an individual identified with more than one race, they were represented in each racial group they selected, even though they only accounted for one case. Now, people who select multiple racial identities are included in the multiracial, non-Hispanic category.
Reporting “Hispanic” as Race, Not Ethnicity
Our update also includes a shift recategorizing “Hispanic” from an ethnicity to a racial identity.
Although race and ethnicity are two categorizations related to human ancestry, both are social constructs used to characterize seemingly distinct populations. Federal policy defines “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not a race. However based on census findings, standard U.S. racial categories may either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanic people to describe their racial identity.
According to a Pew Research Center survey of multiracial Americans, for two-thirds of Hispanics, their Hispanic background is a part of their racial background, rather than something separate. This distinctive view of race is consistent across demographic subgroups of Latino adults. Suggesting that official U.S. definitions don’t accurately reflect the unique view of race held by Hispanics.
What does this mean for our local data? Prior to shifting our methodology, a significant percentage of the “other race” category was made up of individuals who identified as Hispanic, but with this change, the percentage of cases reported as “other race” has decreased.
Summary of Changes
This new categorization is also used by the Washington State Department of Health. This update will increase consistency with the state data.
Hispanic: Hispanic ethnicity of any race
Other: Respondent selected "other race"
If counts are between 1-9, data are suppressed to comply with Washington State Department of Health small numbers guidelines.