2020 Census Decisions Threaten to Undercount People of Color

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Undercounting people of color in the 2020 Census and higher costs are expected because of the Trump Administration’s failure to act on a new plan for counting race and ethnicity. The administration’s Office of Management and Budget dragged out review of the plan to the point where it could no longer be administratively incorporated into final preparations for the 2020 Census. The revision in how Latinos and people of North African or the Middle East respond to the Census was developed and tested over the past ten years. It was designed to address chronic under-reporting rates among Latinos and to reduce errors by aligning the questions more with the ways people identify themselves. The Wall Street Journal describes the process and how the administration acted through inaction to scuttle the improvement.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latin American Elected Officials Educational the Wall Street Journal, “The decision to ignore years of research and the expert advice of scientists is a blow to science and the collection of the best data possible.” In an NPR story about the Administrations action, May Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, called it "severe blow" noting “our communities, like all others, rely on representation through legislative redistricting, civil rights laws, and education and health statistics. A continued undercount will cause harm” to health research, language assistance and other services.

In the meantime, the Census Bureau is under pressure by the Trump Administration to add a question about citizenship without the extensive development and testing to ensure it does not negatively affect participation in the count.

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