Philanthropy Files Supreme Court Brief Opposing Citizenship Question

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Minnesota Council on Foundations Joins Amicus Brief on Citizenship Question

Minneapolis [April 2, 2019] – In a rare move, a national group of grantmaking organizations has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court citing the problems a proposed citizenship question for the 2020 Census will create for philanthropy and the communities they serve. Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) is one of 30 philanthropic organizations nationally to join in on the brief. (See PDF of the brief below.)

“We know the addition of the question increases the risk for an undercount and reduced reliability and usefulness of census data,” said Bob Tracy, MCF’s director of public policy and communication.” “Minnesota grantmakers rely on good census data to guide investments in Minnesota’s communities and people.”

The brief cites the use of census data by philanthropic organizations to understand and address issues related to child welfare and education, to allocate funds to improve health outcomes, and to promote community development and jobs and economic development.  Research by the Census Bureau indicates the addition of a citizenship question could reduce participation in the 2020 Census.

“We wanted to make sure the Court understands that this was not a partisan issue,” said Tracy. “The impact has consequences beyond any political implications and perceived partisan battles.” 

MCF cited the collective effort of Minnesota grantmakers to create and sustain Minnesota COMPASS as a tool to guide grantmaking and as a community assessment and impact resource in its rationale to join in the brief.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 23 to review lower court decisions blocking inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. Due to the urgent need to begin production of materials for the 2020 Census by the end of June, a Court decision is expected early in June, well before the end of the Court’s 2019 session.

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In 2008, Minnesota grantmakers supported the development of Minnesota Compass, a social indicators project that measures progress in our state and its communities. These grantmakers continue to provide the sustaining base of support for this credible, easy-to-use, free resource. They use Minnesota Compass to identify issues, evaluate potential programs, set priorities, and measure progress over time; it is a vital tool to guide their grantmaking investments. The annual Compass Points report tracks 34 indicators of state success, addressing education, health, housing, transportation and a variety of areas of critical importance. Information is provided for the entire state, but also for smaller regions and communities. Minnesota Compass is the “go to” resource for not only grantmakers, but government, regional development, nonprofit, and business leaders from throughout the state. This critical resource relies upon a fully-inclusive and accurate census and American Community Survey.

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