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The 2013 NMDOH Race/Ethnicity

On July 1, 2013, all IBIS datasets began using the new standard definition for presentation of health data by race and ethnicity. This definition uses a single construct for race/ethnicity. This page describes what changed and why.

  1. NMDOH Standard for Collection of Race/Ethnicity Information
  2. NMDOH Standard for Presentation of Race/Ethnicity Information
  3. What was the process that informed this change in the presentation of data?
  4. What does this change mean for NMDOH Data?

1. New Mexico Department of Health Standard for Collection of Race/Ethnicity Information

The New Mexico Department of Health uses the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standard for collection of race and ethnicity data. That standard specifies collection of race/ethnicity information using a minimum of the following five race categories and two ethnicity categories:


  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White


  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Not Hispanic or Latino

Persons are asked to report both race and Hispanic ethnicity information, and to identify multiple race categories if they apply. Detailed history and description of Race/Ethnicity Measurement standards are described in the NMDOH Race and Ethnicity Reporting Measurement and Reporting, Background.

2. Current NMDOH Standard for Presentation of Health Data by Race and Ethnicity

The New Mexico Department of Health has defined a standard for presentation of health data by race and ethnicity that uses estimates of bridged race and Hispanic ethnicity and presents race and ethnicity as a single social and cultural construct using the following five major categories/labels. (For information on bridged race estimates, please visit the Race and Ethnicity Measurement and Reporting webpage.


3. What was the process that informed this change in the presentation of data?


The collection and presentation of data describing race and ethnicity are both constantly evolving with the changing demographics of populations. Self-reported individual preference of race and ethnicity is the gold standard for identifying an individual's race and ethnicity. The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) continues to collect race and ethnicity based on the federal Office of Management and Budget standard, under which ethnicity and race are collected separately. But the federal OMB standard addresses data collection, only, not how those data are presented.

2005 NMDOH Presentation Standard

In 2005 the NMDOH implemented a change in the way race and ethnicity were presented. Prior to 2005, race and ethnicity had been presented as separate constructs by the NMDOH. Hispanic ethnicity was presented separately from race. This method of data presentation resulted in "Hispanic of any race" and "non-Hispanic of any race" categories. But New Mexicans self-identified as either "Hispanic" or some White or non-White race. So a solution was sought that more closely matched how New Mexicans identify their own race and ethnicity. In 2005 the NMDOH implemented a standard approach, under which race and ethnicity were presented as a single construct. Under the 2005 standard, persons who self-reported multiple races or Hispanic ethnicity, were classified into the smaller population group. This approach was termed the, "Small Group Aggregation" approach. The result was that from 2005-2013, the populations of three racial groups (AIAN, API, and African American) were inflated with the addition of persons self-reporting both Hispanic and one or more of those racial groups, and the Hispanic population included only persons who identified as White race and Hispanic ethnicity.

2013 NMDOH Presentation Standard

The NMDOH continued to evaluate methods to present data on New Mexico's racial and ethnic groups. The NMDOH reviewed the scientific literature and the methods used by other states and the federal government to evaluate our [2005] data presentation standard. To inform our evaluation, a question was added to the NMDOH Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). The question asked the preferred racial/ethnic group of all Hispanic and multi-racial respondents. Some of the results generated from that question can be seen below. The data from the BRFSS question suggest that persons self-reporting Hispanic and a non-White race category, as a group, would prefer to be presented as "Hispanic." This question and a literature review provided evidence to support changing from the 2005 "small group aggregate" approach to the 2013 approach, which can be called the "Hispanic aggregate" approach. The current presentation method is similar to the method used by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the State of New Mexico Public Education Department.

Table 1. shows the results of the preferred race/ethnicity question from 2011-2013 on the NM BRFSS Survey.

Table 1. Percentage of Survey Respondents1 by Race and Preferred Race/Ethnic Group Identification, 2011-2013 NM BRFSS

Respondent Preference
Racial Group
American Indian/ Alaska NativeAsian/ Other Pacific IslanderBlack/ African AmericanTotal, 3 Race Groups
Preferred to Identify as "Hispanic"70.6%65.2%60.4%69.2%
Preferred to Identify as Race27.2%23.9%39.6%28.0%
(1) Table 1 includes all BRFSS survey respondents who self-identified as Hispanic ethnicity and a non-White race.
Source: NMDOH, Community Health Assessment Program.

At this point in time the NMDOH recommends that data records designated as Hispanic ethnicity, regardless of race, be classified in the 'Hispanic' category. If Hispanic ethnicity information is missing, records are to categorized by their reported race. The presentation of race and ethnicity data at the NM DOH is constantly evolving, and we will continue to evaluate this method as time progresses.

4. What does this change mean for NMDOH Data?

By making this change to our presentation of race/ethnicity, the rates that the NMDOH provides for New Mexico's race and ethnic populations more accurately reflect those populations and the way that we think about our own race and ethnicity. This change affects both our numerators (number of events) and denominators (population estimates) that we use to calculate our rates (e.g., smoking rates, teen birth rates, death rates). The following concepts are important to keep in mind:
  • Self-identified preference of race/ethnicity is the gold standard for data presentation at the NMDOH, as it is for federal agencies. This emphasis on self-identified preference is consistent with the standard set by the United States Government Office of Management and Budget, Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting. Based on the 2011- 2013 BRFSS survey results, we believe that, compared to the 2005 race/ethnicity presentation standard, our current standard more accurately represents the way that New Mexicans would prefer to be identified.
  • No persons are reclassified into a racial or ethnic group based on last name, or any other factor besides self-identified race and ethnicity.
  • No changes have been made to the way that any race and ethnicity data at the NMDOH are collected, only the way that the data are presented by the NMDOH. No persons have been removed from any group, in the collection of data at the NMDOH, and only the presentation of these data has changed. A person can still report multiple races and a race plus Hispanic ethnicity to the New Mexico Department of Health on New Mexico Department of Health data sources.
  • These data can still be released to researchers and the public using many different race and ethnicity presentation methods that may be needed, including the two methods previously used by the NMDOH.
  • This change does not affect any data sources outside of the New Mexico Department of Health. Data sources such as the United States Census, which are used by many organization to estimate tribal populations in New Mexico, are not affected by this change. The data sources that will be presented differently are those which are housed within the NMDOH, which includes: Vital Records and Health Statistics (Birth and Death Records), Hospital Inpatient Discharge and Emergency Department Data, Infectious Disease Data, and Health Surveys.
  • This decision was based on the results of evidence from the 2011-2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. This information is continuously re-evaluated
  • Finally, the NMDOH is committed to educating the public and answering questions about data collection, presentation and the rationale behind this change. The NMDOH will continuously evaluate all methods used to present data as new information becomes available.


  1. Federal Register Notice October 30, 1997, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET. Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Downloaded from on June 22, 2009.

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