US government data often provides insight into the situation of large swathes of Americans. However, this comprehensive approach has often been criticized for leaving certain groups of people, like Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and making them virtually invisible when it comes to broader policy development and the financing of public services.
Now the Biden administration is working on a plan to make sure fewer people fall through the cracks.
On Friday, the Fair Data Task Force, a collection of data and policy experts from more than a dozen federal agencies, published a plan outlining how to make federal data more representative of America’s growing diversity.
By making data more inclusive, the hope is that policy decisions that rely on federal data will ultimately better serve communities in need, said Fair Data Task Force co-chair Alondra Nelson in an interview. with CNN Business.
Government data is also often considered the gold standard when determining the breakdown of federal, state and local funding for services such as veterans benefits, disaster relief and stimulus payments. It can also be used to better analyze the impact of tax credits and other benefits on Americans and to ensure that this funding is going to the people who need it most.
“We can’t really know how we’re doing and how well we’re serving the American public, if we don’t have the ability to dig deeper into the data,” she said.
Created as part of the Executive Order on Racial Equity that President Joe Biden signed on his first day in office, the task force was tasked with by studying how the government collects data, discovering who is being left out, and providing strategies to ensure America’s diversity is better represented in federal statistics.
Among the key recommendations: analyze and disaggregate broader data by demographic areas, such as race and ethnic subgroups, income, geography, sexual orientation and gender identity; increase funding for more federal and independent research and analysis data that better encompasses minority and marginalized populations; and do information more accessible, transparent and easily understood by the general public.
The recommendations also include several requests for budget increases to deepen research and analysis in areas such as access to health care, long Covid, mental health status and crime in historically struggling communities. served; adding questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to the Census Bureau’s largest household survey; and increasing staff and capacity to expand data collection to include Middle Eastern and North African heritage and Asian American, Hawaiian and American subgroups. of the Pacific Islands.
Over the past year, the group has met with dozens of nonprofit and research organizations to get their input on how federal data could be fairer. Some of these groups included the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, the Black Women’s Roundtable, the Latina Institute, the National Congress of American Indians, the Pew Research Center, the Urban Institute, and the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. .
Many of these groups are increasingly vocal about how their communities, populations and demographic subgroups are not represented in federal data.
Independent research conducted by universities, non-profit organizations and others goes no further, they said, because it does not carry the same weight as government statistics that lead to direct service funding.
“If we don’t matter, we don’t matter,” Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, told CNN Business last year.
Nelson said Friday the administration is listening and taking action to make those changes.
“We want to say to the American public, ‘We hear you,'” she said. “‘We understand you don’t feel seen.'”