2020 Census

Yes, the census should be tracking race and ethnicity


(Gerald Martineau/for The Washington Post)
January 23

Timothy P. Johnson is director of the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago and president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Roger Tourangeau is former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and vice president and senior statistical fellow at Westat.

As the federal government prepares to conduct the 2020 Census, critics of the Census Bureau are pushing to make fundamental changes to how it collects its data. This month, Ward Connerly and Mike Gonzalez argued in The Post that the agency should remove questions in the census used to monitor race and ethnicity in our country.

This is a bad idea — based on incorrect information — that would do more harm than good to our country.

First, the Census Bureau’s race and ethnic classifications do not overlook the growing mixed-race population in the United States, as Connerly and Gonzalez suggested. In fact, the government specifically redesigned the 2000 decennial to let Americans more easily self-identify with multiple racial and ethnic groups. This information can be found in any of the countless statistical reports routinely issued by the Census Bureau describing the ever-changing population of our nation.

Questions regarding racial and ethnic self-identification have been included in each U.S. census dating back to the first in 1790. The specific wording of those questions and the level of specificity requested have, of course, been revised significantly over 220 years, reflecting our evolving understanding and respect for the cultural diversity of our nation.

Regardless, racial and ethnic self-identification is an essential component of the identities of millions of Americans. It is a valuable proxy indicator of their life experiences, and researchers have found that race and ethnicity are consistently associated with numerous measures of social well-being.

This information is also routinely used to expose politically motivated attempts to gerrymander congressional districts. This month’s court order to redraw North Carolina districts, which appear to have been designed in part to limit the representation of minority groups, is the most recent example illustrating the importance of objective, nonpartisan statistical information to ensure equal protection of the rights of all Americans. Removing this information from the decennial census would make it easier for us to ignore the social discrimination, health and economic disparities that persist in our nation.

Of course, social researchers recognize the imperfect measurement of race, ethnicity and most of the other social constructs that we study. There are many legitimate criticisms of the existing measures, and ongoing efforts in government, academia and private enterprise continue to develop more rigorous and useful measures. The Census Bureau has historically served as a leader in these efforts, typically making changes to census questions only after lengthy periods of careful research, experimentation and public comment. Questions regarding racial and ethnic self-identification will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the future. Those changes will hopefully be made in the name of public service and based on nonpartisan research.

The 2020 Census is already under considerable stress due to the cancellation of large-scale pretests and other essential development work. This is no time to impose untested changes to the census questionnaire. If we want to reconsider removing or adding questions, let’s do it when we have ample time to determine how doing so might best serve the public good.

Credit: The Washington Post

Census Projections

Census: Whites no longer a majority in U.S. by 2043


WASHINGTON White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043, according to new census projections. That’s part of a historic shift that already is reshaping the nation’s schools, workforce and electorate, and is redefining long-held notions of race.

The official projection, released Wednesday by the Census Bureau, now places the tipping point for the white majority a year later than previous estimates, which were made before the impact of the recent economic downturn was fully known.

America continues to grow and become more diverse due to higher birth rates among minorities, particularly for Hispanics who entered the U.S. at the height of the immigration boom in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since the mid-2000 housing bust, however, the arrival of millions of new immigrants from Mexico and other nations has slowed from its once-torrid pace.

The country’s changing demographic mosaic has stark political implications, shown clearly in last month’s election that gave President Barack Obama a second term — in no small part due to his support from 78 percent of non-white voters.

There are social and economic ramifications, as well. Longstanding fights over civil rights and racial equality are going in new directions, promising to reshape race relations and common notions of being a “minority.” White plaintiffs now before the Supreme Court argue that special protections for racial and ethnic minorities dating back to the 1960s may no longer be needed, from affirmative action in college admissions to the Voting Rights Act, designed for states with a history of disenfranchising blacks.

Residential segregation has eased and intermarriage for first- and second-generation Hispanics and Asians is on the rise, blurring racial and ethnic lines and lifting the numbers of people who identify as multiracial. Unpublished 2010 census data show that millions of people shunned standard race categories such as black or white on government forms, opting to write in their own cultural or individual identities.

By 2060, multiracial people are projected to more than triple, from 7.5 million to 26.7 million — rising even faster and rendering notions of race labels increasingly irrelevant, experts say, if lingering stigma over being mixed-race can fully fade.

The non-Hispanic white population, now at 197.8 million, is projected to peak at 200 million in 2024, before entering a steady decline in absolute numbers as the massive baby boomer generation enters its golden years. Four years after that, racial and ethnic minorities will become a majority among adults 18-29 and wield an even greater impact on the “youth vote” in presidential elections, census projects.

“The fast-growing demographic today is now the children of immigrants,” said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, a global expert on immigration and dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, describing the rate of minority growth in the U.S. as dipping from “overdrive” to “drive.” Even with slowing immigration, Suarez-Orozco says, the “die has been cast” for strong minority growth from births.

As recently as 1960, whites made up 85 percent of the U.S., but that share has steadily dropped after a 1965 overhaul of U.S. immigration laws opened doors to waves of new immigrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. By 2000, the percentage of U.S. whites had slid to 69 percent; it now stands at nearly 64 percent.

“Moving forward, the U.S. will become the first major post-industrial society in the world where minorities will be the majority,” Suarez-Orozco said. With the white baby-boomer population now leaving the work force, the big challenge will be educating the new immigrants, he said.

The U.S. has nearly 315 million people today. According to the projections released Wednesday, the U.S. population is projected to cross the 400 million mark in 2051, 12 years later than previously projected. The population will hit 420.3 million a half century from now in 2060.

By then, whites will drop to 43 percent of the U.S. Blacks will make up 14.7 percent, up slightly from today. Hispanics, currently 17 percent of the population, will more than double in absolute number, making up 31 percent, or nearly 1 in 3 residents, according to the projections. Asians are expected to increase from 5 percent of the population to 8 percent.

Among children, the point when minorities become the majority is expected to arrive much sooner, in 2019. Last year, racial and ethnic minorities became a majority among babies under age 1 for the first time in U.S. history.

At the same time, the U.S. population as a whole is aging, driven by 78 million mostly white baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. By 2030, roughly 1 in 5 residents will be 65 and older. Over the next half century, the “oldest old” — those ages 85 and older — will more than triple to 18.2 million, reaching 4 percent of the U.S. population.

The actual shift in demographics will be shaped by a host of factors that can’t always be accurately pinpointed — the pace of the economic recovery, cultural changes, natural or manmade disasters, as well as an overhaul of immigration law, which is expected to be debated in Congress early next year.

“The next half century marks key points in continuing trends — the U.S. will become a plurality nation, where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority,” said acting Census Bureau Director Thomas Mesenbourg.

Republicans have been seeking to broaden their appeal to minorities, who made up 28 percent of the electorate this year, after faring poorly among non-whites on Election Day, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried only about 20 percent of non-white votes.

The race and ethnic changes are already seen in pockets of the U.S. and in the younger age groups, where roughly 45 percent of all students in K-12 are Hispanics, blacks, Asian-Americans and others. Already, the District of Columbia and four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — have minority populations greater than 50 percent; across the U.S., more than 11 percent of counties have tipped to “majority-minority” status.

Last month, nearly all voters over age 65 were white (87 percent), but among voters under age 30, just 58 percent were white.

“Irrespective of future immigration and minority fertility patterns, the U.S. is facing a stagnating white population,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The biggest shift will occur over the next 20 years as the mostly white baby boom generation moves into traditional retirement years. It is in the child and early labor force ages where we must be ready for the greatest changes as new American minorities take over for aging whites.”

Economically, the rapidly growing non-white population gives the U.S. an advantage over other developed nations, including Russia, Japan and France, which are seeing reduced growth or population losses due to declining birth rates and limited immigration. The combined population of more-developed countries other than the U.S. has been projected to decline beginning in 2016, raising the prospect of prolonged budget crises as the number of working-age citizens diminish, pension costs rise and tax revenues fall.

Depending on future rates of immigration, the U.S. population is estimated to continue growing through at least 2060. In a hypothetical situation in which all immigration — both legal and illegal — immediately stopped, previous government estimates have suggested the U.S. could lose population beginning in 2048.

“Young families — many of them first or second-generation immigrants — have been the engine of U.S. population growth for several decades,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau.

Credit: CBS News

Photo Credit: #130368: Silhouettes of people over US flag, partial graphic

Census Trouble Looming!

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Census data dictate the distribution of over $600 billion in yearly grants and subsidies to state and local governments. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Census experts and public officials are expressing growing concerns that the bedrock mission of the 2020 census — an accurate and trustworthy head count of everyone in the United States — is imperiled, with worrisome implications.

Preparations for the count already are complicated by a sea change in the census itself: For the first time, it will be conducted largely online instead of by mail.

But as the Census Bureau ramps up its spending and work force for the 2020 count, it is saddled with problems. Its two top administrative posts are filled by placeholders. Years of underfunding by Congress and cost overruns on the digital transition have forced the agency to pare back its preparations, including abandoning two of the three trial runs of the overhauled census process.

Civil liberties advocates also fear that the Trump administration is injecting political considerations into the bureau, a rigidly nonpartisan agency whose population count will be the basis for redrawing congressional and state legislative districts in the early 2020s. And there is broad agreement that the administration’s aggressive enforcement of immigration policies will make it even harder to reach minorities, undocumented immigrants and others whose numbers have long been undercounted.

Taken together, some experts say, those issues substantially raise the risk that the 2020 count could be flawed, disputed, or both.

“There’s a set of unprecedented challenges that collectively threaten to create a perfect storm in 2020,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant and a leading authority on the census, said in an interview. “If public confidence in the objectivity and quality of the 2020 census erodes, then another pillar of our representative democracy could be compromised.”

John H. Thompson, who led the Census Bureau from 2013 until June, said the agency appeared on track to conduct its crucial and only “end-to-end” dry run of the count in Providence, R.I., in April. “The career staff at the Census Bureau are really, really good and really committed to an accurate count,” he said. “They will do the best job they can for the money and public cooperation they get.”

Still, he added, “There’s an issue with funding, and there’s an issue with operational readiness. And there’s an issue with accuracy.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a onetime census-taker himself, said in a statement on Saturday that he was “keenly aware” of the challenges facing the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, and that he had put in place new management to address some of the 2020 issues. The top acting officials at the bureau are career employees with decades of experience; with those changes and more money, he said, “I am confident in our ability to conduct a full, fair and accurate 2020 census.”

A department spokesman, James Rockas, noted that Mr. Ross was seeking nearly $750 million for advertising and outreach programs to persuade members of hard-to-reach groups to participate. The Obama administration had “severely underestimated” both the cost and technical challenges of moving to a digital census, he said. Outside experts disputed that charge, noting that Congress had ordered the Census Bureau to spend no more than $13 billion on the 2020 census, and then cut even more from Obama administration budget requests that sought to meet that mandate.

Consternation about pulling off an accurate count has been part of the run-up to past censuses, especially regarding funding challenges. During the last census, worries ranged from undercounting military personnel and their families on bases to fairly accounting for large inmate populations in rural Republican districts.

A bungled count could have profound consequences. Data from the census — which aims to count everyone, whether citizens or not — dictate the distribution of more than $600 billion yearly in grants and subsidies to state and local governments. Demographic data from the count are the bases for surveys that are benchmarks for major businesses, governments and researchers.

The census results also will determine which states will gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives and how those lines are drawn when redistricting begins in 2021. Serious undercounts would invite lawsuits that could hogtie that process, some experts said, and sap public trust in one of the government’s core functions.

The census is the gold standard of data collection not just in the United States but in the world, said Phil Sparks, a director of the Census Project, a network of organizations promoting an accurate head count in 2020. “The last thing we want to do in this current debate,” he said, “is to make this a base metal.”

The bureau has been working on the 2020 count since the 2010 census was completed. The complete overhaul now underway seeks to shrink the count’s costliest and toughest task: sending hundreds of thousands of enumerators to find and interview the millions of people who fail to fill out their census forms.

An online head count, the reasoning goes, should reach more households more efficiently than mailed forms. The enumerators who track down those who do not respond (in 2010, almost 3 in 10 households) will use smartphone apps that instantly send data to the bureau’s computers and track the canvassers’ progress.

The bureau also hopes to mine federal databases and even satellite images for information that could reduce wasted trips by enumerators — to vacant buildings, for example — and automatically fill in personal data like addresses and ages.

The goal is to rein in the ballooning cost of censuses, from $1.22 per person counted in 1970 to more than $42 in 2010. Paradoxically, however, Congress’s demand to keep the 2020 census within the $13 billion cost of the 2010 tally backfired, as the underfunded shift to a digital census only led to later cost overruns, including $300 million for a key initiative to centralize data processing.

Compounding that, Congress has regularly given the agency less money than it said was needed — $200 million less through fiscal 2017 — forcing officials to slow or eliminate programs.

It also has canceled dry runs of the completed census process in Washington State and West Virginia that would have documented its performance in rural areas with spotty internet service and Indian reservations that do not use standard addresses. It has abandoned plans for smartphone canvasses in group living quarters like college dorms and prisons, and scaled back its culling of information from federal databases.

The Commerce Department has raised the count’s projected cost to $15.6 billion, including a $1.2 billion emergency fund — still less, it said, than the $17 billion a mail-in census would have cost. Secretary Ross asked Congress in October for an extra $3.3 billion to fund that new budget. But while outsiders applauded his commitment to the census, they were uncertain that the White House shared it.

To some experts, the situation recalls the 2010 census, in which the bureau sought to equip its enumerators with digital devices, fell behind schedule and had to spend $3 billion on a last-minute switch to pencil-and-paper forms.

“We basically have a simple choice,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who has proposed legislation adding about $440 million to the bureau’s fiscal 2018 budget. “Properly fund the census now, or ask the taxpayers to pay a lot more down the road to make up for poor planning.”

But at least as worrisome as funding is concern over the Trump administration’s impact on the 2020 count.

For different reasons, both civil liberties advocates and census experts say they are troubled by the White House’s purported interest in Thomas Brunell, a political-science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, for the bureau’s vacant post of deputy director. Mr. Brunell, a scholar of redistricting, has been an expert witness for Republican defendants in several gerrymandering cases. He also has criticized the policy of statistically adjusting census results to account for minorities and others who are undercounted.

Neither Mr. Brunell nor the Trump administration has addressed that interest, first reported in Politico. Former officials of the bureau said in interviews that Mr. Brunell lacked managerial experience for a position long held by experienced executives. Civil rights advocates said they worried that his appointment would signal partisan meddling in a census whose usefulness in drawing legislative districts depends entirely on its credibility.

The deputy director runs the bureau’s daily operations and is a key voice in census decisions. Liberals fear a partisan leader would scale back efforts to reach minorities and other Democratic-leaning groups that already are undercounted. Others said low-income and older rural residents who are reliably Republican also are undercounted, and that the issue was not so much partisanship as accuracy and credibility.

“The politicization of the census would erode what is already fragile trust and confidence in the integrity of the count,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has worked for years on census issues.

The Trump administration’s heated rhetoric on immigration, race and the trustworthiness of government is fueling fears that minorities, legal and undocumented immigrants and others — from asylum-seekers to victims of the opioid crisis — will be even harder to locate and count. The 2010 census actually overcounted non-Hispanic whites by 0.8 percent and undercounted African-Americans by 2.1 percent and Hispanics by 1.5 percent.

Suggestions by Mr. Trump and others that the census include a question about citizenship or immigration status are especially worrying to many. More than 11 million undocumented immigrants lived in the United States in 2016, eight million of them in the civilian work force. The administration’s hard line on immigration already is having a chilling effect on Hispanic leaders whose support is crucial to an accurate count, said Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the Naleo Education Fund, which promotes Latino involvement in civic life.

“Our membership includes elected officials and other people who have indicated they’re not convinced that they can stand up with confidence and tell their constituents that filling out the census form is safe and confidential,” said Mr. Vargas, who sits on a census advisory committee on issues that affect minorities and other hard-to-count groups. “There’s just a great lack of confidence now.”

A marked undercount, especially one that appeared driven by partisanship, could spark an unsettling battle between the census’s political winners and losers. There is precedent: Article 1 of the Constitution requires a decennial census for reapportionment purposes. But after Republicans took control of Congress and the White House in 1920, the House of Representatives refused to allow reapportionment of House seats, fearing that the rapid urbanization the census had documented would shift political power from rural areas to cities.

A similar refusal to accept the 2020 census’s results “by definition would be a constitutional crisis,” Ms. Lowenthal said. And any loss in faith in the count — whether due to politics, money or poor planning — would do lasting damage, she and others said.

“The record of the census in counting people from all income groups, all racial and ethnic groups, is really extraordinary,” said Steve H. Murdock, a Rice University sociologist who led the Census Bureau under President George W. Bush. “Once you break that belief in the activity, it’s hard to replace.”

Project RACE in the News!

http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-08-28/human-rights-racial-justice/could-multiracial-americans-ease-racial-tensions/a59186-1

Save the Census

Save the Census

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A census bureau worker in Houston in 2010. Credit Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

An administration uninterested in staffing federal agencies, at war with facts and eager to help Congress cut the budget is further endangering a cornerstone of American democracy: the duty to count all who live here.

Every decade since 1790, as required by the Constitution, the federal government has undertaken a painstaking census of its people, the accuracy and fairness of which serves the interests of both political parties and of every citizen. The decennial count is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and set the boundaries of congressional districts. It determines how tens of billions of dollars in federal aid are divvied up.

The Government Accountability Office already put the 2020 census on its list of high-risk projects early this year, due to uncertainty about its budget and technology, and Americans’ increasing distrust of government data collection.

Then, the Census Bureau’s director, John Thompson, who was expected to remain on the job until at least the end of the year, resigned in June. Mr. Trump has not named a permanent replacement. The agency’s deputy director, Nancy Potok, an experienced statistician, left in January, and she also has not been replaced.

Responses to mail-in questionnaires — still the chief data collection method for the census — and door-to-door interviews have been declining for years, a G.A.O. report said.

The bureau hopes to bolster its door-to-door “clipboard” force by automating the force’s work and introducing online reporting. But there’s not much money to test whether the approach actually works on the census: The bureau scrapped three field tests slated for this year, and two more for next year, including tests among rural people, who are traditionally one of the most seriously undercounted populations. There’s also less money to protect the online system from hacking of the kind that crashed Australia’s online count last year.

The census has always been vulnerable to political attack, and is especially so now. In 2009, Tea Party conservatives in the House tried unsuccessfully to kill off the bureau’s annual American Community Survey, a continuing tracking of respondents’ occupations, education, homeownership and other topics, as a supposed intrusion on privacy. A joint study by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution this year calls the survey data “indispensable” in helping local governments plan.

Mr. Trump poses an additional threat: His repeated efforts to discredit voter registration data and government employment numbers leave census officials worried that a random tweet from him could discourage more people from participating. Census professionals worry that the administration’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants could make them wary of providing information about themselves and where they live.

The census is the federal government’s chief source of data about the American people and economy, a sweeping endeavor. “If you don’t do the investment at the front end, you can’t fix it later,” says Max Stier, chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan advocate for a more effective federal government.

The census begins on April 1, 2020, and it must be completed in the summer for congressional reapportionment and redistricting to take place. Any failure would be immediately apparent — and it would tar Republicans at the height of the 2020 primary campaign season. Perhaps that reality will help inspire congressional leaders to support an accurate count, demonstrating to Americans that, even in the age of Trump, facts matter.

Census: US More Diverse

Census: US more diverse, white population grows least

Every ethnic and racial group grew between 2015 and 2016, but the number of whites continued to increase at the slowest rate — less than one hundredth of 1 percent, or 5,000 people, the Census estimate shows. That’s a fraction of the rates of growth for non-white Hispanics, Asians and people who said they are multi-racial, according to the government’s annual estimates of population.

President Donald Trump’s core support in the racially divisive 2016 election came from white voters, and polls showed that it was especially strong among those who said they felt left behind in an increasingly racially diverse country. In fact, the Census Bureau projects whites will remain in the majority in the U.S. until after 2040.

“Even then, (whites) will still represent the nation’s largest plurality of people, and even then they will still inherit the structural advantages and legacies that benefit people on the basis of having white skin,” said Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority,” a book about the 2016 election.

AN AGING NATION

The Census Bureau reported that the median age of Americans — the age at which half are older and half are younger — rose nationally from just over 35 years to nearly 38 years in the years between 2000 and 2016, driven by the aging of the “baby boom” generation.

The number of residents age 65 and older grew from 35 million to 49.2 million during those 16 years, jumping from 12 percent of the total population to 15 percent.

That’s a costly leap for taxpayers as those residents move to Medicare, government health care for seniors and younger people with disabilities, which accounted for $1 out of every $7 in federal spending last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By 2027, it will cost $1 out of every $6 of federal money spent. Net Medicare spending is expected to nearly double over the next decade, from $592 billion to $1.2 trillion, the KFF reported.

Sumter County, Florida, home of The Villages, a large retirement community, had the highest median age increase, rising from 49 years old in 2000 to 67 years old in 2016. Over that time period, 56 U.S. counties showed a median age increase of 10 years or more.

BOOM IN YOUNG PEOPLE

The Census report also showed that children in the U.S. born from 2001 through 2016 were the nation’s fastest-growing age group, with a 6.8 percent jump in the year beginning July 1, 2015. Other age groups either lost or gained population by less than a percentage point, according to the Census Bureau.

That means more demand on taxpayers for schools, bilingual education and accommodations for English language learners, as well as recruiting a corps of educators that reflects the nation’s students. Robert Hull, executive vice president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said a majority of students in the U.S. are not white, but that 82 percent of teachers are white.

“It’s not just the services offered or what we do for the students but who is delivering those services,” Hull said.

The number of English language learners in U.S. public schools was about 4.6 million in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

FACE OF A NATION

All race and ethnic groups grew in the year before July 1, 2016, the Census reported.

The Asian population and those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3 percent each, to 21 million and 8.5 million, respectively. Hispanics grew by 2 percent to 57.5 million. The black population grew by 1.2 percent to nearly 47 million.

The number of non-Hispanic whites grew by only 5,000, leaving that population relatively steady at 198 million of the nation’s 325 million people.

A Pew Research Center analysis of the Census’ current population survey found that white turnout increased in the 2016 election, while black turnout dropped and the nonwhite share of the U.S. electorate remained flat compared with the 2012 election.

“Any sort of impact on politics may be several decades in the future,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research for the Pew Research Center.

California had both the largest number of whites and non-white Hispanics in 2016, 30 million and 15.3 million, respectively.

Texas had the largest numeric increase in both the white and non-white Hispanic populations.

As for the share of a state’s overall population, New Mexico had the highest percentage of nonwhite Hispanics at 48.5 percent. Maine had the largest percentage of whites, nearly 97 percent.

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Census Director Quits

Census Director John H. Thompson Abruptly Quits People-Counting Agency

Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson was expected to leave the agency at the end of the year but instead will depart June 30, according to a government statement. Thompson said he is pursuing “opportunities in the private sector.””Your experience will be greatly missed,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the same statement.

Image: Census Director John Thompson
Census Director John Thompson poses for a portrait in this undated handout image. U.S. Census

Thompson testified to a House committee last week that the 2020 Census was on track. Members of the panel expressed concern about the escalating costs and overruns of the decennial accounting exercise mandated by the Constitution. The 2010 Census was the costliest U.S. Census in history, at about $12.3 billion, Robert Goldenkoff, strategic issues director for the Government Accountability Office. Thompson, who was confirmed to his post in 2013, told the same panel that the cost of the 2020 Census will cost about $12.5 billion.

Some of the increased projection is the result of modernizing the counting process, Goldenkoff said.

Asked whether Secretary Wilbur Ross or Trump himself had asked Thompson to step down, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said by email: “He’s simply retiring from public service. He spent 30 years in public service and 10 in the private sector.”

The Census, conducted every 10 years since 1790, is critical to determining how to run the country as it grows and diversifies. Beyond government spending, the private sector also uses demographic information collected in the enumeration.

The U.S. recently surpassed 325 million people. By 2044, whites are expected to become a minority. In 2020, the questionnaire is expected to include a new classification for Americans who are of Middle Eastern descent.

The director is nominated by the president for a five-year term and confirmed by the Senate.

Affirmative Action?

Affirmative Action?

by

Susan Graham for Project RACE

If you think multiracial people have racial and ethnic problems in the United States, just look at what’s happening in Brazil. Forty-three percent of Brazilians self-identify as part pardo or brown. In the United States, multiracial people are about seven percent of the population. Their census has 136 classifications and ours has 57 for multiracial combinations.

Brazilians often do not identify as white or black, but fall into an assortment of names like dark nut, burnt white, and copper. It reminds me of the 1990s in the United States, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was actually considering a “skin gradation chart” for their racial categories. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Brazil has a very complex history, which I won’t go into here, but 5.5 million Africans were forcibly transported to Brazil in its story of slavery. They have never been and are now no closer to a color-blind society than we are.

Affirmative action is very scary in Brazil. Many multiracial Brazilians are being rejected or thrown out of affirmative action programs for being too white. Whether you agree with the basics of affirmative action or not, will what’s happening in Brazil ever happen to us in the United States? Will affirmative action bite the dust rather than try to qualify its participants?

Schools there are setting up race boards to inspect future educational and job applicants, It may surprise you to learn that Louisiana, in fact, had “race clerks” to maintain the one-drop rule and ensure racial “purity” until 1977.  The race boards in Brazil may be the law soon. About 25 students were recently expelled from one of the leading universities for “defrauding” the affirmative action system when they were found to be not “black enough.”

One of the points we won in the 1990s in the United States was for self-identification on the census and on all other forms requiring racial and ethnic information. It was a very important victory, as important as having the ability to check more than one race. We should never forget that it was a huge win from the previous observer identification policy. In Brazil, people can self-identify, but identification is very different in Brazil, as F. James Davis wrote in Who is Black, “The implied rule is that a person is classified into one of many possible types on the basis of physical appearance and by class standing, not by ancestry.” There is a big difference in the way the two countries count by race.

The criteria used by those universities and employers in Brazil are indeed scary and include the following: Is the candidate’s nose short, wide and flat? How thick are their lips? Are their gums sufficiently purple? What about their lower jaw? Does it protrude forward? Candidates can be awarded points per item, like “hair type” and “skull shape.” So, the laws stipulate that an applicant’s race should be self-reported, but then accuses them of lying for affirmative action purposes. Many of these students are resorting to something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest. It’s something we would, hopefully, never tolerate in the United States. Yet, the race commissions in Brazil have a lot of support from the black community.

The United States must be aware of the tactics utilized in Brazil and we have to learn from them. If affirmative action remains alive in our country, let’s make sure it is fair for our multiracial population.

 

 

Census Considers No Races

Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all

2020 Census Question
Possible 2020 census race/Hispanic question for online respondents, who would click to the next screen to choose more detailed sub-categories such as “Cuban” or “Chinese.” Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity.

Census forms now have two questions about race and Hispanic origin. The first asks people whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and states that “Hispanic origins are not races.” A second question asks, “What is this person’s race?” and includes a list of options with checkboxes and write-in spaces. The U.S. government defines Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.

The problem with using the word “race” is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from “origin.” The agency’s focus group research found that some people think the words mean the same thing, while others see race as meaning skin color, ancestry or culture, while origin is the nation or place where they or their parents were born.

2010 Census Question on Race and Ethnicity
2010 census form asks about race and Hispanic ethnicity separately. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau’s owndefinitions of race andHispanic origin, which follow government-wide rules from the Office of Management and Budget, sometimes appear to overlap. A white person, for example, is defined as someone “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.” Hispanic is defined as a person of “Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a fluid product of many influences. “We recognize that race and ethnicity are not quantifiable values,” the Census Bureau said in a 2013 report. “Rather, identity is a complex mix of one’s family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, personal experience, context, and many other immeasurable factors.”

In test-census forms to be sent to 1.2 million respondent households later this fall, the bureau will test the impact of alternative question wording that drops all mention of “race” or “origin” and asks: “Which categories describe person 1?” People then can choose from the list of races and origins. The National Content Test also will test combining the Hispanic and race questions into one, in part because many Latinos believe that Hispanicity is a race and do not identify themselves as white, black or another standard racial group.

The content test also will experiment with adding a new Middle East and North Africa category. The test represents the bureau’s final major research effort before locking down its proposed 2020 questionnaire wording.

The bureau’s Federal Register notice published last month invited comments on the proposed test. The agency’s plans received some positive feedback at the March meeting of its National Advisory Committee of outside experts.

“I’m very happy that they are going to test a question which gets away from the language of race and ethnicity because frankly that is just a quagmire, that language,” said Ann Morning, an advisory committee member and New York University race scholar. “No two people seem to be able to agree on what those terms mean.”

In follow-up comments in an email, Morning said she believes “the beauty of simply referring to ‘categories’ is that it avoids that problem of people getting hung up on the terminology. So I would expect this term will allow people to answer the question more quickly, and to feel more free to check more than one box if they wish, and to lead to a lower non-response rate on that question.”

Census Bureau Race InteractiveIf adopted, the changes would add to the long list of revisions over time in the way the decennial census has asked about race, which has been included in every count since the first one in 1790. Until 1960, Americans did not choose their own race on census forms; enumerators did it for them. Racial categories have changed extensively through the decades, and question wording also has been revised.

The word “color,” not “race,” was used in census-taker instructions and some census forms in the 1800s. The word “race” appeared for the first time in 1880 enumerator instructions that talked about “color or race,” and the use of both terms continued on census forms or instructions through 1940. The term “color” was dropped from the 1950 census form, but returned on the 1970 census form.

The word “race” was not included in the 1960 census or 1980 census. Instead, the forms asked, “Is this person­ –” and listed the racial categories.

Source: Pew Research

 

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