USA: 2020 Census May Ask White People To Get Specific About Their Ethnicity | 90.1 FM WABE

Canada has collected ethnic origin/ancestry data for over 30 years:

“White” has been a constant of the U.S. census.

Other racial categories for the national headcount have come and gone over the centuries. But “white” has stuck ever since U.S. Marshals went door-to-door by horseback for the first census in 1790, tallying up the numbers of “free white males” and “free white females,” plus “all other free persons” and “slaves.”

Census takers determined who counted as “white” or any other race. That changed in 1960, when U.S. residents were first allowed to self-report their race. Since then, just answering “white” has been enough to respond to the race question.

But the upcoming census in 2020 may ask those who identify as white to explore their family tree to share their ethnic background as well. Anyone who checks off the “white” box could also mark boxes for groups such as “German,” “Irish” and “Polish” or write in another option.

That change depends partly on whether the White House approves proposals to modify how the federal government collects race and ethnicity data. They originated when President Obama was still in office, and now it’s up to the Trump administration to approve or reject them. If approved, the Census Bureau may move forward with this new way of asking people of all races about their identities on the 2020 questionnaire.

Friday is the deadline for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which sets standards for this kind of data for all federal agencies, to announce its decisions on the proposals. Any policy changes would come at a time of heightened awareness of white nationalist calls against multiculturalism and growing partisan divides over issues about race in the U.S.

Research by the Census Bureau suggests the proposals could produce a more accurate count in 2020. In a report released in February, the bureau’s researchers write that the suggested changes are responding to a public “call for more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.”

‘It could change the discussion’

Asking white people about their ethnic background is not a new concept for the census. Recent census forms, including the questionnaire used in 2010, have asked all recipients about their ethnicity specifically in terms of “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” A question about a person’s ancestry or ethnic origin was first included in the 1980 Census and remained on some forms as recently as 2000. Past forms have asked for a person’s place of birth, the countries where the person’s mother and father were born and languages spoken other than English.

via 2020 Census May Ask White People To Get Specific About Their Ethnicity | 90.1 FM WABE

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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