Monthly Archive for January, 2018

More census/citizenship articles

We previously reported on the Justice Department request for a citizenship question to be included in the 2020 Census [here] but there’s a flood of coverage on this issue because it is a really important to the integrity of the census.

The Justice Department wants a citizenship question so that it can properly judge whether districts are violating Voting Rights. This happens if a voting district has lots of non-citizens in it [See Evenwel v. Abbott]. But, the American Community Survey has a citizenship question, so it seems to be a stretch to add a citizenship question to the census for this purpose. Since 1960, the long-form has been the place where the citizenship question was asked. More important, the purpose of the census is for reapportionment and secondarily for redistricting. To quote Terri Ann Lowenthal “It would completely pull the rug out from under efforts to have everyone participate in the census as the Constitution envisions.” (NYT).

Here are the additional articles covering this issue in chronological order:

Civil and Human Rights Coalition Denounces Request to Undermine 2020 Census
Vanita Gupta |
December 30, 2017

The Justice Department has never needed to add this new question to the decennial census to enforce the Voting Rights Act before, so there is no reason it would need to do so now. Contrary to the Justice Department’s letter, the Census Bureau has not included a citizenship question on the modern census “short form,” sent to every household, since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Estimates of the citizen voting-age population derived from the ongoing American Community Survey, and the so-called census “long” or sample form before that, have been and continue to be acceptable for purposes of civil rights and Voting Rights Act enforcement. Given these plain facts, the entire justification for the request should be viewed skeptically as an attempt to throw a wrench into final planning and preparations for an enumeration that already faces enormous challenges, including inadequate and delayed funding, cyber-security risks, and a climate of fear fanned by anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Furor greets request to add citizenship question to 2020 U.S. census
Jeffrey Mervis | Science Magazine
January 2, 2018

The DOJ letter implies that placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census would simply correct a one-time blip in the agency’s tracking of the issue. But that’s not really the case.

The Census Bureau does have a 200-year history of asking residents about their origins. In 1820 people were asked whether they were “foreigners not naturalized.” In 1850 they were asked about their place of birth, and in 1900 a question was added on the year they entered the country.

But starting in 1950, those questions were moved to the long form of the census. That goes to one in six households, meaning that most residents were never asked about their origins or immigration status. And after the 2000 census, the long form was dropped from the decennial census and converted into the American Community Survey (ACS), a lengthy questionnaire that goes annually to about 3 million households.

The ACS has long been a target for many Republicans in Congress who believe that its 70-some questions are intrusive and unnecessary—and a waste of tax dollars. The DOJ letter says ACS data alone are not good enough for its efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act, but that the citizenship question should nevertheless be retained on the ACS.

The question that could sabotage the census
Raul Reyes | CNN
January 2, 2018
This author is skeptical of the Justice Department’s motives:

But does anyone seriously believe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, head of the Department of Justice, is concerned about minority voting rights? His past indicates otherwise. He can frame his motivation for wanting citizenship information in worthy terms all he wants, but the reality is that such a change to the census could have far-reaching implications — none of them good. . . . .

Asking about citizenship on the census would most likely lower the number of responses, particularly among Latinos and immigrants.

Author also notes that the Census Bureau is noticing an uptick in fears of answering questions, even though the answers are confidential.

In November, a government official warned that early test surveys showed that immigrants were wary of providing personal information to the government. The bureau’s Mikelyn Meyers reported an “unprecedented groundswell in confidentiality and data-sharing concerns among immigrants or those who live with immigrants ” related to the 2020 count — and this was before news broke about the potential citizenship question.

Critics Say Questions About Citizenship Could Wreck Chances for an Accurate Census
Michael Wines | New York Times
January 2, 2018

“I can think of no action the administration could take that would be more damaging to the accuracy of the 2020 census than to add a question on citizenship,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant and leading private expert on census issues, said in an interview. “It would completely pull the rug out from under efforts to have everyone participate in the census as the Constitution envisions.”

King Believes Census Should Include the Citizenship Question
AJ Taylor |
January 3, 2018
Steve King, Iowa(R), thinks the citizenship question should be on the census so Iowa can get a Congressional seat from California. The purpose of the question this time around is not to exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count. But, that has come up before [Louisiana was the last state to try this, when they lost a seat due to out-migration due to Hurricane Katrina.]