In the nick of time?

The Census Bureau released the subjects they plan to collect for the 2020 Census as well as the American Community Survey (ACS). The Census Bureau needs to send this information to Congress before April 1, 2017. They clearly met that deadline. But, there is a draft executive order “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs,” that would have the Census Bureau add a citizenship question to the Census. This information is already asked in the ACS – so it is not difficult for the Census Bureau to provide annual numbers on the size and composition of the foreign born population (citizen or not) x welfare use. So will Congress and/or Trump insist on changes between now and a year from now, when the exact wording of the questions has to be presented?

The Census Bureau has never wanted to collect immigration status data on the Census as they feel it would lower the response rate of non-citizens, particularly those without papers. This was true in the past and is certainly would be the case now.

Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey
Census Bureau
March 28, 2017

White House proposal to ask immigration status in Census could have chilling effect, experts say
Tara Bahrampour | Washington Post
February 1, 2017

Annual questionnaires from the Census Bureau already ask whether respondents are citizens. But probing into the status of those who are not would be new, and Census experts say it would have a detrimental effect on future counts.

“It will drive the response rate down enormously,” said Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the Census Bureau who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. Immigrants here illegally are unlikely to answer questions about their status, he said, adding that the resulting undercount could have chilling effects.

“If you drive those people out of the Census, the consequence is that they’re not in it,” he said. “It’s a step toward not counting the people you don’t want to count. And that goes very far in redrawing legislative boundaries.”

Release Of Possible Topics For 2020 Census Raises Concerns
Hansi Lo Wang | NPR
March 28, 2017

WANG: Kenneth Prewitt is a former director of the Census Bureau who served under the Clinton administration. He’s concerned that the immigration debate could determine the questions asked on the census.

KENNETH PREWITT: I think that would set up a huge partisan argument. And the census would be stuck in the middle of that.

WANG: Prewitt adds that besides politics, the bureau is also dealing with uncertain funding from Congress. And that means the bureau may have to scrap more trial tests of its methods, plus follow-up visits to people who don’t respond immediately to its questionnaires.

PREWITT: That means we will not have a very good census. And not having a good census means that we have an undercount. And the undercount will vary by region and by grouping.


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