Think About This

Copies of the 2010 U.S. census
The 2010 United States Census allowed 63 possible responses for race.Ross D. Franklin / AP
At a doctor’s visit, on a college-admissions application, or even in a consumer-marketing survey, Americans are regularly asked to classify themselves by race. Some protest this request by “declining to answer,” as forms often allow. After all, racial categories are social constructs. They don’t connote biological or genetic difference.

As an African American, I have never had difficulty knowing which box I am meant to check. Whether I do so depends on my understanding of why the information is being collected. Similar questionnaires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries didn’t afford such choice. At that time, before the current practice of self-identification, an enumerator or census taker would have visited my home and classified me as free or enslaved, and then determined whether I might be colored, mulatto, quadroon (one-quarter black), or octoroon (one-eighth).

Shortly after the country’s founding, the U.S. government began collecting data on the racial and ethnic make-up of every person in each household. Every decennial ushers in some new language meant to enhance the accuracy and reliability of the census as a measurement of the entire national population. There’s symbolic power in being represented on the census—in being counted. But as the political scientist Melissa Nobles shows in her book Shades of Citizenship, these data also track compliance with civil-rights legislation, particularly voting districts. They are linked to federal resources, intensifying public agitation around the categories.

During the years between each census, researchers, activists, politicians, and interest groups lobby for the rewording of a label, the addition (or elimination) of a category, or the disaggregation of another, such as Asian or American Indian or Alaska Native. In 2000, for example, “Hispanic or Latino, or Spanish origins” was reclassified from racial to ethnic data. Respondents were also allowed to select multiple boxes to reflect multiracial heritage for the first time. Additional changes that affect how the racial makeup of the country is represented are underway, including the creation of a separate category for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent (referred to as MENA).

Shifts in racial classifications raise questions about what exactly is being counted, how people interpret the same questions differently, and what to do about people’s changing perceptions of their racial background. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that at least 9.8 million people reported a different racial or ethnic background than they did in 2000. When someone appears to “change” races, the resulting data is sometimes construed as erroneous.

The statistical accounting used to correct such errors is commonly referred to as “data cleaning” or data cleansing. This process involves identifying and then editing data already collected—through modification, enhancement, or deletion of responses—when it does not conform to some predetermined rules that standardize the data set. Ostensibly, the goal is to improve data quality by correcting measurement errors generated by people who complete the questionnaires or enter responses into the database. Data cleaning hopes to make a final data set similar to other, related ones, such as the other national censuses and the American Community Survey.

Errors in reporting and recording certainly do happen. But if racial data must be cleaned, then some data is dirty. And that dirtiness is undeniably political. Some responses are more likely to be diagnosed as dirty. Given the goal of creating information that is comparable from one national census to the next, the data most under suspect are those that correspond to the categories most in flux: people who checked more than one box, for example, or those who saw themselves as members of different racial or ethnic groups at different times.

While data cleansing can raise ethical questions about altering people’s responses, it offers a bureaucratic solution to a difficult position for the Census Bureau. The bureau is under public pressure to modify its data-collection methods, on the one hand. But, on the other, it is also expected to provide reliable data that is comparable over time and across other government agencies at the local, state, and national levels. The desire for comparability prompts some of the most intensive or imaginative cleaning.

By 2010, the two major changes from the previous censuses—the treatment of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish ancestry as an ethnicity and the ability to check multiple racial categories—had yielded 63 possible responses for race: the original six categories (white; black or African American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; some other race), plus an additional 57 possible combinations of these responses. Given the new information, identifying one group and distinguishing it from another became difficult. This led to the creation of new categories, established after data collection, such as “black, not Hispanic,” or “white, Hispanic.” For the most part, people who selected more than one race were recoded as “two or more races,” regardless of the combination. However, because no actual multiracial category is offered, the official racial categories are still preserved in the record. That makes them traceable later, by cleaning individuals’ responses retroactively.

In 2010, the “some other race” category proved the dirtiest. This selection included a write-in box where respondents were expected to provide the name of the race to which they felt they belonged. The vast majority of the more than 19 million people (6.2 percent of respondents) who made this selection also identified themselves as having “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish” origins for the ethnicity question asked prior to their race. In its document 2010 Census Redistricting Data, the Bureau states that it used “automated” and “expert” coding to recode write-in responses for compliance with the master files (or predetermined rules) of the database or system. For example, the document states that someone describing themselves as “Haitian” and “Moroccan” was recoded to “black” and “white.” This “some other race” also includes people who preferred to write in responses like “multiracial” in lieu of ticking multiple boxes.

Even with a shrinking budget and new leadership, the bureau’s search for tidier data continues. When interviewed shortly after her retirement in January, the former U.S. chief statistician Katherine Wallman acknowledged that politics were most likely behind recent budget cuts. Irrespective of the latest political jockeying, the bureau has been discussing ways to cut costs without compromising data quality for years. As a result, the 2020 census will test an online response option, and use administrative records such as federal tax returns and postal-service files to estimate individual characteristics like sex and race when information is not self-reported.

While these new measures might reduce costs, civil-rights groups like the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights are concerned that they will continue to undercount or otherwise misrepresent vulnerable populations and communities of color whose members are less likely to have reliable internet access. That might make them vulnerable to inaccurate identification in administrative records.

The Census Bureau didn’t respond to a request for comment or clarification about its perception of dirty data. Nevertheless, the bureau likely finds itself in a cultural minefield, as it becomes a site where debates unfold about which individuals and groups are rendered invisible, as much as how finite public resources get allocated. The ongoing dispute over whether future censuses should or will include a question about sexual orientation or gender identity belie the simplicity of the current sex question, which only asks respondents if they are male or female. With more public pressure and social change, that data might also become disaggregated one day, and then recoded into categories like “cisgender male” or “female, not transgender.”

Some people bristle at being asked to reduce the complexity of their self-perceptions into a singular choice. The “check-this-box” mentality of the census is at odds with the more fluid and ambiguous self-perceptions of the population: people originating from outside the country, for example, or those habituated to customizable digital profiles, like those on Facebook, which appear to revel in the uncertainty of multitudinous identity. If anything, these digital tools have helped accelerate citizens’ willingness to self-identify in categories broader than those provided by the government—and even to demand to be able to do so.

Even so, some of the choices haven’t changed. Since the first census in 1790, one category has remained stable, or at least been modified the least on the national census and other official government forms: “white.”

BREAKING NEWS

Supreme Court Decision – CENSUS

5-4 decision on June 27, 2019 – In Department of Commerce v New York, the court sent back to a lower court a case on whether the census should contain a citizenship question, leaving in doubt whether the question will be on the 2020 census.

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Census Question to give Republicans Edge?

FILE – In this April 23, 2019 file photo, immigration activists rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments over the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, in Washington. A new court filing Thursday, May 30 by lawyers opposing adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census alleges a longtime Republican redistricting expert played a key role in making the change. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A Republican redistricting expert advocated for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census to give an electoral edge to white people and Republicans, opponents of the move alleged in a court filing Thursday.

The filing in Manhattan federal court said a trove of newly discovered documents revealed that Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican gerrymandering guru, played a key role in pushing the Trump administration to include a citizenship question on the census for the first time since 1950.

Lawyers for opponents of adding the question said the files, found on Hofeller’s computer drives after he died last year, also showed that he contributed vital language to a Justice Department letter used to justify the question on the grounds that it was needed to protect minority voting rights.

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A C.E.O.’s Plea: Don’t Mess With the Census

American businesses rely on data from the census. Please don’t ruin it by adding a citizenship question.

By David Kenny

 

 

A coalition of more than 30 states, cities and counties, led by New York State, recently won a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York challenging a decision by the Commerce Department to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The Department of Commerce appealed, and the case is scheduled to be argued at the Supreme Court on April 23.

The plaintiffs argued that participation in the census will be depressed by the addition of the new question, causing a significant undercount. If the government is successful in adding the citizenship question, the census will yield flawed data. This has significant consequences for American businesses, which rely heavily on census data and on the accurate reporting of consumer behavior to make their most critical business decisions.

A citizenship question will pollute a data set that is foundational for businesses all over the country. The Supreme Court has previously recognized that the census serves as a “linchpin of the federal statistical system by collecting data on the characteristics of individuals, households, and housing units throughout the country.” Presidents from both political parties have recognized that the private sector, like the government, uses the wealth of information generated by the census to make critical business decisions.

My company, Nielsen, believes that American businesses’ reliance on this data cannot be overstated. As soon as the decennial census data is available, for example, we revise our ranking of the top media markets in the United States, by population. This “designated market area” list is always eagerly anticipated by our clients, and it has a direct impact on how advertisers spend their money.

Among others who agree with us are the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Advertising Research Foundation and Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The advertising industry and many other businesses depend on census data to make strategic and operations decisions, as they plan what to make, who to make it for, where to market it, where to sell it and how to adapt to the nation’s changing demographics. Banks and financial institutions, for example, use census information to create financial products for certain segments of the population. Utility companies use it to decide on the location of cell towers and new power lines. Health care companies also need an intimate understanding of the demographic makeup of different markets when they consider whether to open or close a hospital or an urgent care facility. Retailers, manufacturers and businesses of all types need accurate population data to decide where to locate manufacturing plants, distribution centers, or brick-and-mortar stores.

The economic impact of these decisions is enormous. Millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars — not to mention thousands of jobs — are at stake, so it is crucial that they be based on the highest quality data.

In the era of big data, an accurate census is more critical than ever. We know that big data sets have inherent structural biases, and those biases require calibration to a “truth set,” which in almost all cases is benchmarked to the census. Even a small error in the census can be amplified over and over again as the data is used in new and ever evolving ways. The last thing that business needs is for the next 10 years of data to be built on a faulty foundation.

This truth set is more critical now than it has ever been before, as business reflects a changing America. In 2044, white Americans will be a minority. We know that because prior decennial census data has told us so. At that time, Hispanics will constitute 25 percent of the population; African-Americans, 12.7 percent; Asians, 7.9 percent; and multiracial people, 3.7 percent. American businesses are already adapting to this evolving customer base, but they require the best possible data to do so.

My company and our peers in the advertising industry have, collectively, more than 100 years of experience with data, and we believe that including this question will result in an inaccurate census that will lead to flawed business decisions. You can count on it.

David Kenny is the chief executive of Nielsen.

Photo CreditBrian Snyder/Reuters

Why I’ll Fill Out My Census Form

It only happens once every ten years and it is one year away. April 1 is the one year out milestone for the 2020 Census. We will be inundated in the next 12 months with messages from the Census Bureau about how important it is for every American to be counted. There will be a major media blitz reminding us of the repercussions if we don’t do as we’re told. There is even a monetary penalty for not participating and every envelope says, “Your response is required by law,” but that won’t make us want to fill out our census forms. I’ll fill mine out because I’ll want to know what the numbers are for my community. I’ll want to know if we count.

Humans, by their very nature, love to count things. How many quarters do we have? How many steps does it take to get to the bathroom? The “how many?” question looms. There is even a disease called arithmomania, a disorder in which individuals have a strong need to count their actions or objects in their surroundings.

Filling out your census form is hardly obsessive behavior, yet so many of us are somewhat annoyed by it. We shouldn’t be. Knowing how many Americans there are and where they are is important to our society for things like funding of federal and state programs, congressional representation, and information about data like sex and race. A census ensures that we are represented in many important ways.

You may feel the census is intrusive. Why does the government need to know so much about us? What difference does it make if we’re White, Black, or somewhere in-between? Did our forefathers really care how many toilets our homes have? Is it anyone’s business? I remember a man telling me, “I’ll tell them where I live and that’s all they get!” Maybe you’re one of these people, but I implore you to get past the fear and fill in your 2020 census when it arrives. There is an old adage “We count people because people count.”

Doubt in government is at an all-time high. We just don’t trust Washington, but is that a good enough reason to not be counted? Now a citizenship question is being debated, which if included, will cause even more distrust. That will lead to more and more people not filling out their forms. The Supreme Court will weigh in on this question soon. People bring up privacy concerns with every census, but census data are processed to obscure individual information.

Data are important. We fill out surveys and take quizzes. Buy anything on the internet and you’ll be almost assured of some kind of customer satisfaction survey that ask for our age, sex, and race. This is how companies truly understand the wants and needs of their customer base. Data show how we relate to others. We use data to make decisions about where we live, work, go to school, or play. Data can be extremely complex or simple. How you ask a question can lead to different answers. Data collection is a science and an art. Even though I’ve had my issues with them over the years, the Census Bureau does a good job of figuring out who makes up America. I’m not a researcher, I’m an average person (maybe statistically so) who has a need to be able to put information in perspective. Accurate data helps me do so.

We expect to see demographics reflected in news stories, whether by percentages or pie charts, we want to know the make-up of the people in a story, we may glaze over some of it, but we anticipate it. We should therefore be willing to supply it. Most of the data we see comes from the United States Census Bureau and they take their numbers from your census forms. Organizations like Pew Research also supply us with numbers that we see reflected around us every day. This will be the first census where we may be able to go online to fill out our forms because technology has advanced us to this new place. An enumerator could still be sent to your home if you don’t comply. It’s up to us to ensure there is not an over count or undercount in our neighborhood.

My organization advocates for the multiracial population, the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in America. I know that because the Census Bureau told me. We have only been included on the census since 2000 and only because we fought very hard for the right through the 1990s. The Census Bureau calls us “two or more races” people. It’s important for biracial and multiracial individuals to check as many boxes as necessary to make up their entire racial and ethnic heritage so that we can be counted by the Bureau in our entirety. We need to show that our numbers are large enough to be an important force to be reckoned with by retailers, organizations, and politicians. We fought for the right to be counted, so let’s go all in. We only have a year to get ready.

Susan Graham

Trouble at the Census Bureau

 

Information has come forward that there has been a privacy lapse in the 2010 census data. The race and ethnicity of 138 million Americans may have been compromised. The biggest issue is that people will not trust the bureau to keep their private information safe, which is just another reason for people to not fill out their census forms.

Also in question is the much-debated proposed citizenship question, which the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear. The fear is that citizens will withhold completing their census or lie because of possible repercussions from the answers at a time when many people do not trust the government.

Not filling out your census form could affect distribution of federal money and allocation of seats in the House of Representatives. Also important is that the census gives us a snapshot of the race and ethnicity of our country, which could be vital to our knowing how many people self-identify as biracial or multiracial, also called “two or more races” by the Census Bureau. Project RACE will keep you up-to-date about these and other important issues.

Citizenship Question Blocked on Census

Court Blocks Trump Administration From Asking About Citizenship in Census

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., center, ordered the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

New York Times

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in New York blocked the Commerce Department on Tuesday from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, handing a legal victory to critics who accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes.

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.

A broad coalition of advocacy groups and state and local officials had argued that the citizenship question was effectively forced into the census under false pretenses, in violation of laws enacted to ensure that federal policies heed the public interest.

[Inside the Trump administration’s fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census]

At first blush, the central question of the lawsuit — whether the 2020 census should ask respondents if they are citizens — seems mundane enough. A similar question was asked in most federal censuses before 1960, and it is still asked by the Census Bureau in the American Community Survey, which samples about 2.6 percent of the population each year.

But opponents argued that adding the question to the census itself would undermine the constitutional mandate to count every person, regardless of citizenship, because it would discourage noncitizens from filling out the questionnaire for fear of persecution. That was especially true, they said, in light of the Trump administration’s open hostility toward some immigrant groups and its campaign to round up and deport undocumented residents.

Roughly 24 million noncitizens live in the United States, and fewer than 11 million of them do so illegally. Nearly one in 10 households includes at least one noncitizen. A substantial reduction in the number of households that respond to the census could alter the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants and subsidies.

Because the census is also a statistical baseline for business and government decisions, an undercount could skew countless decisions on matters like where to locate new stores or where to open or close medical clinics.

Total population figures will be used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives in 2021, so the contours of Congress, the Electoral College and thousands of state and local political districts could be affected. Because noncitizens tend to live in places that disproportionately vote Democratic, undercounting them in the census would be likely to shift federal spending and political power to Republican areas.

Some of the six lawsuits to block the addition of the question, filed by advocacy groups and public officials in California, Maryland and New York, argue that such a shift is the real motive for the Commerce Department’s decision.

The official explanation from Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, was that he was responding to a request the previous December by the Justice Department, which stated that census data on citizenship would help it better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau.

Under court scrutiny, Mr. Ross’s argument turned out to be incomplete. As Mr. Ross later acknowledged in another memorandum, he had begun considering the issue within days of becoming Commerce secretary in February 2017. Internal documents made public in the lawsuit showed that Justice Department officials had not asked for a citizenship question, and had rejected an initial plea from the Commerce Department to do so. Only after a monthslong campaign, capped by a telephone call by Mr. Ross to the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, did the Justice officials assent.

In sworn testimony, the department’s senior civil-rights official conceded that census data was not necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and that citizenship information from the American Community Survey and its predecessor had been used for more than five decades without difficulty.

The Census Bureau itself had recommended against adding a citizenship question, estimating in an analysis in January that at least 630,000 households would refuse to fill out the 2020 questionnaire if such a question were included. Adding a citizenship question “is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available from administrative sources,” the bureau’s chief scientist, John M. Abowd, wrote in a memo to Mr. Ross.

Government lawyers argued repeatedly during the trial that none of that mattered, because Mr. Ross had broad leeway in making his decision. That statistical experts disagreed with Mr. Ross “is immaterial to this case,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett A. Shumate told the court. “All the secretary is required to do is to provide a reasoned explanation,” he said. “He doesn’t have to choose the best option.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Mr. Ross’s decision was not based on the merits, but was clearly tailored to his personal views. Mr. Shumate disagreed. While “it was evident that he had a policy preference” toward adding a citizenship question, Mr. Shumate argued, Mr. Ross had sought a range of advice and had acted only after the Justice Department established a need.

“Where’s the evidence that Secretary Ross would have plowed ahead had he not had the D.O.J. letter” requesting a citizenship question, he asked. “There is none.”

Census will ask for Citizenship

Note: Project RACE is NOT in favor of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census!

Despite Concerns, Census Will Ask Respondents if They Are U.S. Citizens

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made the decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms, citing the need to measure the portion of the population eligible to vote. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The 2020 census will ask respondents whether they are United States citizens, the Commerce Department announced Monday night, agreeing to a Trump administration request with highly charged political and social implications that many officials feared would result in a substantial undercount.

In a statement released Monday, the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had “determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire is necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data,” allowing the department to accurately measure the portion of the population eligible to vote.

But his decision immediately invited a legal challenge: Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision, a spokeswoman for Mr. Becerra said late Monday.

Critics of the change and experts in the Census Bureau itself have said that, amid a fiery immigration debate, the inclusion of a citizenship question could prompt immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond. That would result in a severe undercount of the population — and, in turn, faulty data for government agencies and outside groups that rely on the census. The effects would also bleed into the redistricting of the House and state legislatures in the next decade.

Photo

A census form from 2010, which did not ask about citizenship status. Credit Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Justice Department had requested the change in December, arguing that asking participants about their citizenship status in the decennial census would help enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which aims to prevent voting rights violations.

“The Justice Department is committed to free and fair elections for all Americans, and has sought reinstatement of the citizenship question on the census to fulfill that commitment,” a Justice Department spokesman, Devin M. O’Malley, told The New York Times in February.

In a memorandum explaining his decision, Mr. Ross wrote that he had considered opponents’ arguments about the potential to discourage responses.

“I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate,” he wrote.

The decennial census generally included a citizenship inquiry for more than 100 years through 1950, according to the Commerce Department. And other, smaller population surveys, such as the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, continue to ask respondents about it.

“The census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade,” said Mr. Becerra. “What the Trump administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count.”

Others argued that an undercount in regions with high immigrant populations would lead not only to unreliable data but also to unfair redistricting, to the benefit of Republicans.

“Adding this question will result in a bad census — deeply flawed population data that will skew public and private sector decisions to ensure equal representation, allocate government resources and anticipate economic growth opportunities — for the next 10 years,” Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, said in a statement Monday night. “The stakes are too high to allow this. We urge Congress to overturn this error in judgment.”

The announcement of the citizenship question comes at a troublesome time for the Census Bureau: Its top two positions have interim occupants, and it has been forced to skip two of its three trial runs for the 2020 census because of funding shortfalls. If response rates for the census are low, critics worry that the bureau may be unable to adjust the data or deploy enough census takers to low-response communities.

The bureau is required to submit a final list of the 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of March.

Census and Citizenship Question

California sues over Census citizenship question

(CNN) — Progressives, states and civil rights advocates are preparing a flurry of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the next census, saying the move will penalize immigrants and threaten civil rights.

The late Monday move from the Commerce Department, which it said came in response a request by the Justice Department, would restore a question about citizenship that has not appeared on the census since the 1950s. The administration said the data was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The state of California immediately challenged the plan in federal court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla trashed the move as anti-immigrant.

“The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility,” Padilla said in a statement. “Now, in one fell swoop, the US Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration’s claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible.”

Former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder also blasted the move and said his organization, which focuses on voting enfranchisement and redistricting, would also pursue litigation against what he called an “irresponsible decision.”

Holder said contrary to the rationale presented by the Justice Department, he and other modern-era attorneys general were “perfectly” able to handle those legal matters without such a question on the Census.

“The addition of a citizenship question to the census questionnaire is a direct attack on our representative democracy,” Holder said in a statement. “Make no mistake — this decision is motivated purely by politics. In deciding to add this question without even testing its effects, the administration is departing from decades of census policy and ignoring the warnings of census experts.”

Critics of the move say that including such a question on a government survey will scare non-citizens and vulnerable immigrant communities into under-reporting. By undercounting these populations, they argue, there will be a major impact that follows on voting and federal funds.

Because the once-a-decade census is used to determine congressional and political districts and to dole out federal resources, an undercount in heavily immigrant areas could substantially impact certain states and major cities and potentially their representation at the federal level.

The question has not been on the full census since the 1950s, but does appear on the yearly American Community Survey administered by the Census Bureau to give a fuller picture of life in America and the population.

The Commerce Department said the decision came after a “thorough review” of the request from the Justice Department. The priority, Commerce said, was “obtaining complete and accurate data.”

“Having citizenship data at the census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA, and Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the statement said.

Becerra and his state have been central to virtually every legal challenge of the Trump administration on issues ranging from immigration, to the environment, to health care. The Justice Department has also sued California over its so-called sanctuary policies to protect immigrants.

More challenges could soon follow.

Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, a nonprofit that works on issues of justice and civil rights, said the question had no place in the Census.

“Our Constitution requires a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the country, no matter her or his citizenship status. The administration’s decision to add a citizenship question is at best a dramatic misstep, and at worst a politically-motivated move that will undermine a fair and accurate census,” Weiser said. “This question is a dangerous move that could lead to a serious skewing of the final census results, which would have a deleterious effect on our system of representative democracy. We urge the administration to reconsider.”

Credit: CNN

U.S. to become “Minority White”

Note: Project RACE thanks the author and Brookings for using the term “multiracial.”

The U.S. will become “minority white” in 2045, Census projects

Youthful minorities are the engine of future growth

William H. Frey

New census population projections confirm the importance of racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth, countering an aging, slow-growing and soon to be declining white population. The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.9 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.8 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations (see Figure 1).

The shift is the result of two trends. First, between 2018 and 2060, gains will continue in the combined racial minority populations, growing by 74 percent. Second, during this time frame, the aging white population will see a modest immediate gain through 2023, and then experience a long-term decline through 2060, a consequence of more deaths than births (see Figure 2).

2018.03.14_metro_figure 1_Bill Frey

2018.03.14_metro_figure 2_Bill Frey

Among the minority populations, the greatest growth is projected for multiracial populations, Asians and Hispanics with 2018–2060 growth rates of 175, 93, and 85 percent, respectively. The projected growth rate for blacks is 34 percent.* The demographic source of growth varies across groups. For example, immigration contributes to one-third of Hispanic growth over this time span, with the rest attributable to natural increase (the excess of births over deaths). Among Asians, immigration contributes to three quarters of the projected growth.

These new projections differ from those that the census previously released in 2014. Those projected a minority white tipping point in the year 2044 due to larger projected immigration and somewhat greater growth for several minority groups. The national growth was also somewhat larger in the 2014 projections. The U.S. was predicted to reach a population of 400 million in the year 2051 compared with 2058 in the new projections.

 “Minority white” tipping points differ by age

Because minorities as a group are younger than whites, the minority white tipping point comes earlier for younger age groups. As shown in Figure 3, the new census projections indicate that, for youth under 18–the post-millennial population–minorities will outnumber whites in 2020. For those age 18-29–members of the younger labor force and voting age populations–the tipping point will occur in 2027.

2018.03.14_metro_figure 3_Bill Frey

The new census projections indicate that, for youth under 18–the post-millennial population–minorities will outnumber whites in 2020

These tipping point years occur later for older age groups, meaning that seniors, age 60 and above, will continue to be majority white after the year 2060. The latter can be attributable in the near term to the staying power of the largely white baby boom. In fact, over the 2018–2060 time span, the only white age group that does not lose population is the 65 and older age group, an age group that, overall, grows far more rapidly than any other.

Youthful diversity as a counterweight to aging whites

Clearly it is the growth of the nation’s youthful minority population–attributable to a combination of past and present immigration and births among younger minority groups–that is keeping the nation from aging even faster than would otherwise be the case.

Figure 4 makes clear how important minority populations will become for the nation’s youth even through 2060. At that point in time, the census projects whites will comprise only 36 percent of the under age 18 population, with Hispanics accounting for 32 percent. This contrasts sharply with the minority contribution to the nation’s seniors, which will still be over half white.

2018.03.14_metro_figure 4_Bill Frey

Because racial minorities are projected to account for all of the nation’s youthful population growth over the next 42 years, they will sharply decelerate national aging. Already in 2018, there will be more white seniors than children and more white deaths than births according to census projections. Yet, neither will be the case for the combined minority population for the projected 2018–2060 time frame.

Minorities will be the source of all of the growth in the nation’s youth and working age population, most of the growth in its voters, and much of the growth in its consumers and tax base as far into the future as we can see. Hence, the more rapidly growing, largely white senior population will be increasingly dependent on their contributions to the economy and to government programs such as Medicare and Social Security. This suggests the necessity for continued investments in the nation’s diverse youth and young adults as the population continues to age.

(In 2060) the census projects whites will comprise only 36 percent of the under age 18 population, with Hispanics accounting for 32 percent

* Growth rates for multiracials, Asians and blacks pertain to non-Hispanic members of those groups.