At Census Time, Asian Americans Again Confront the Question of Who ‘Counts’ as Asian. Here’s How the Answer Got So Complicated

Of interest. Canadian visible minority groups have three Asian groups: East Asian, South Asian and West Asian, in addition to Korean and Japanese.

With the U.S. Census online form set to go live starting March 12, Americans will soon get the once-in-a-decade opportunity to stand up and be counted. But while many of the questions on the Census may seem simple — name or date of birth — at least one is more complicated: race.

For many Asian Americans, who are the least likely among ethnic groups to fill out the Census, this can be especially true. The Census Bureau defines a person of the Asian race as “having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.”

That means, according to the Pew Research Center, that the Census definition of “Asian” — the fastest growing American population — covers more than 20 ethnicities and 20 million citizens in the United States.

But American culture tends not to think of all regions in Asia as equally Asian. A quick Google search of “Asian food nearby” is likely to call up Chinese or Japanese restaurants, but not Indian or Filipino. Years after someone posted a thread on College Confidential, a popular college admissions forum, titled “Do Indians count as Asians?” the SAT in 2016 tweaked its race categories, explaining to test-takers that “Asian” did include “Indian subcontinent and Philippines origin.”

This issue even made its way to the 2020 Presidential race: during his run for the Democratic nomination, Andrew Yang, who is of Taiwanese descent, was frequently framed by the media and his own campaign as the Asian candidate, despite his rival Kamala Harris having Indian heritage. In addition, while Tulsi Gabbard’s Samoan heritage might put her in a different category on the Census now, before 2000, the Census put “Asian” and “Pacific Islander” together in the same broader category.

“My Asian-ness is kind of obvious in a way that might not be true of Kamala or even Tulsi,” Yang said. “That’s not a choice. It’s just a fairly evident reality.”

But the history of Asian identity in the U.S. shows that what Yang asserted is self-evident today could perhaps have evolved differently — and that, as the U.S. counts its population, the result of that evolution can have serious consequences.

Inventing “Asian American”

The boundary between Asia and Europe has no official line, so the definition of “Asian” may include Central Asians, East Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians and South Asians, as well as West Asians — whom the Census counts as white Middle Easterners and may not self-identify as Asian. But today’s common American usage of the term is a relatively recent phenomenon, spiking in popularity in the United States after World War II.

The Corpus of Historical American English shows less than one appearance of “Asian” per million words in American texts from 1810 through the 1940s, but that number rose to nearly 15 mentions per million words in the 1950s. A similar spike can be seen in British English.

At the time of this rise, in the U.S., contact with Asian cultures was predominantly via East Asian countries. “The U.S. was at war with Japan, then Korea, then Vietnam, and has occupied other parts,” explains linguist Lynne Murphy. In addition, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 made way for large-scale immigration from Asia to the U.S.

It’s easy to see how important that contact was. After all, in the U.K., where the breakup of the British Empire contributed to a wave of immigration from South Asia in the mid-20th century, “Asian” has a different meaning. In The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English, Murphy writes about a British journalist whose use of the word “means ‘from the Indian subcontinent,’ and so when he wants to talk about people from China, Korea, or Japan, he [says] east Asians. In America, the situation is just the opposite: say Asian and people assume ‘east Asian.’ When people mean ‘south Asian,’ they’ll probably say Indian or maybe South Asian.”

As civil rights movements swept the United States in the 1960s and ‘70s, Asian populations likewise seized the moment to agitate for their rights. The term “Asian American” emerged from student activists inspired by those movements and was purposefully broad. Given that their numbers individually were much smaller than other race-based movements, “it was a moment in which Chinese American, Filipino American, Japanese American activists came together and said, ‘You know, let’s unite under this umbrella of Asian American,’” explains Anthony Ocampo, a sociologist at Cal Poly Pomona. The movement soon expanded to include South-Asian Americans, Korean Americans and Vietnamese Americans.

As Asian Americans worked for increased visibility, “Asian” and “Asian American” became more general ways of talking about people while avoiding other terms that were incorrect or problematic, like Oriental, which was prominent before the ‘50s, Murphy notes. But it wasn’t long before the term’s meaning narrowed, increasingly coming to apply only to the most visible subgroups.

Eventually, the term “Asian” came to be associated with “what you look like, how your eyes are shaped, your skin tone and your hair texture,” says Ocampo. “When people hear the word ‘Asian,’ they think of certain types of last names that are aligned with Chinese, Korean or Japanese folks.”

A 2016 study done by the National Asian American Survey found that 42% of white Americans believed that Indians are “not likely to be” Asian or Asian American, with 45% believing that Pakistanis “not likely to be” Asian or Asian American. In addition, 27% of Asian Americans believed that Pakistani people are “not likely to be” Asian or Asian American with 15% reporting that Indians are “not likely to be” either. “The question of Asian American identity is contested, with South Asian groups (Indians and Pakistanis) finding it more challenging for American society to view them as Asian American,” concluded the researchers.

A narrow vision

According to the Pew Research Center, the very first U.S. Census in 1790 only had three categories: “Free white males, Free white females,” “All other free persons,” and “Slaves.” It took nearly a century, until 1870, for a category to be added for people of Asian descent. That category was simply called “Chinese.” In 1890, the Census Bureau added “Japanese,” followed by “Other” in 1910 (which primarily referred to people of Korean, Filipino and Indian descent), and “Filipino,” “Korean,” and “Hindu” (referring to Indians regardless of religion) in 1920.

People were allowed to choose their own race from 1960 onward, and this year’s Census will have the same categories for people of Asian descent it used in 2010: “Chinese,” “Japanese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Asian Indian,” “Vietnamese,” and “Other Asian.”

As straightforward as that list may sound, question of who “counts” as Asian clearly endures, and many are now speaking up about why it matters.

“The narrative defines who gets the already few limited resources and airtime that are afforded to Asian Americans,” says Ocampo. For example, discussion of Asian representation in film centers mainly on films with East Asian characters, like Parasite, The Farewell and Crazy Rich Asians. “I find that Black Asians are nearly entirely erased from the convo of being Asian. Like, I’m not even allowed to audition for Asian roles because Hollywood’s vision of ‘Asian’ is just East Asian,” tweeted actress Asia Jackson.

That feeling can be particularly relevant when it comes to checking a box on a form like the Census. Research into what’s known as “social identity threat” has shown that asking people about their identity can make them doubt their social belonging, which can make people doubt their abilities in areas that have nothing to do with race. “Anything that makes you conscious of your identity in a way that is confusing or upsetting or makes things high-stakes for you in some way can represent a problem,” explains Joshua Aronson, a professor of applied psychology at New York University.

Under-representation on the Census can lead to the misallocation of federal resources and a weak understanding of states’ needs, as the population tally plays a major role in deciding on political issues and funding nationwide. The division of seats in Congress and state legislatures is also affected by Census data.

So why are Asian Americans, even today, relatively less likely to fill out the Census?

Along with questioning the safety of offering up personal information to the government — perhaps due to the fact that the government also used Census data to round up people of Japanese descent for imprisonment in camps during World War II — language barriers, feelings of neglect and lack of familiarity with the Census all play a part in discouraging Asian Americans from participating, according to the New York Times. One study showed that Asian Americans are more likely than other groups to worry that their answers would be “used against” them.

As part of an effort to address the situation, volunteers from civic organizations are canvassing to educate Asian populations about the Census and appease any fears. And, in January, the Census Bureau began rolling out ads in Asian languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Tagalog and Vietnamese. But last July, Representative Grace Meng of New York sent a letter to Steven Dillingham, the director of the Census Bureau, urging him to extend that outreach to the South Asian community. “I’m shocked that the Census Bureau failed to include the South Asian community in its outreach leading up to the 2020 Decennial Census,” she wrote. Dillingham wrote back, in a letter shared with TIME, saying that the Census Bureau is in fact trying to expand the campaign to include content produced in South Asian languages.

Whether that outreach made a difference — and whether it worked among allAsian Americans, or just some — won’t be known until after the Census is done.

For demographers, there is some benefit to seeing each subset of “Asian” as separate: “Good data should always be as disaggregated as possible,” says Lakshmi Sridaran, executive director at South Asian Americans Leading Together. “To understand the nuances within the Asian American community, it does matter if somebody is a Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, East Asian, etc. In terms of how resources get allocated for diversity and hiring, it is actually very critical to meet the needs of those communities, which can be very different.”

However, as the original Asian American activists of the mid-20th century knew, there’s also power in banding together. According to Sridaran, the question for activists today should be “how we can leverage the power of coming together under that broader identity, but also uplift those who often get erased or sidelined.”

Source: At Census Time, Asian Americans Again Confront the Question of Who ‘Counts’ as Asian. Here’s How the Answer Got So Complicated

Caribbean immigrants finally get to say where they’re from in Census. They aren’t alone

Ethnic ancestry has been in the Canadian census for a long time:

When the U.S. Census rolls out on March 12, Caribbean immigrants like Felicia Persaud will get to do something many have wanted to do ever since they filled out their first questionnaire: identify themselves beyond race.

The 2020 Census will mark two firsts: people will be able to primarily fill out online, and will be able to note their ethnic identity or nation of origin while still choosing their race.

“We can actually begin to tell our story in some numbers, which we are not able to do right now, at all. It’s just sort of a guesstimate,” said Persaud, a Plantation resident and Caribbean activist who in 2008 launched CaribID 2010, a lobbying effort to get Congress to add a special Caribbean or West Indian category on the census.

Caribbean immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica and elsewhere have long argued that their communities — often lumped in with African Americans — were under-counted and much more diverse than what was being reflected in the Census. The community’s inability to provide a true count has affected everything from the power of its vote, to organizations’ and businesses’ ability to get sponsorship, advertising or contracts from corporations, Caribbean nationals have noted over the years.

“They dismiss you and say, ‘You’re too small; you’re not part of the mainstream; we can’t tell your numbers,’ “ said Persaud, speaking from personal experience as a Guyanese-born media entrepreneur and founder of Invest Caribbean Now, which connects investors with opportunities in the region. “It leaves us completely disrespected; completely ignored and dismissed.

“You feel it all of the time. You see it in this presidential debate and in every election cycle,” she added. “You never hear anything about the Caribbean voter. You hear consistently about the black voter. But you never hear anything about us at all until [the candidates] come to Florida and decide they need to have these Caribbean people come and join us.”

South Florida is home to one of the fastest growing Caribbean-American populations in the United States. The non-Hispanic Caribbean population is estimated at 861,560 in Miami-Dade County, with Haitians leading the growth followed by Jamaicans, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, the questionnaire run by the U.S. Census Bureau. In Broward County, the estimate is 265,278, with Jamaicans slightly ahead of Haitians, 86,845 to 80,201, respectively.

Further north in Palm Beach County, the Caribbean community’s 150,343 nationals are mostly from Haiti, with 70,197, followed by Jamaicans at 24,212.

“I am hoping that Caribbean nationals will identify themselves,” said Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, the first Jamaican-American to hold the position. “The significance is that we will be counted and recognized as a force that’s here and our numbers will show what we do. It will benefit us to the extent that entities looking to see who we are and what we are about, will be able to then use those numbers to recognize the contributions we’re making to build this great nation.”

Though the Census Bureau first began allowing individuals to self-identify more than one race in its 2000 survey, the fight to get self-identification on ethnicity, similar to what Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans have been able to do since the 1970 Census, did not come easy.

Throughout their push, Caribbean activists were met with angst and resistance, especially from African Americans. Vocal black activists argued that a separate non-Hispanic Caribbean category would dilute the black community’s numbers and the amount of federal funds they may be entitled to based on Census data, which is collected every 10 years.

“That has not really been the case because Caribbean nationals are not just black,” Persaud said. “There are a whole lot of cultural and mix up that goes on there and the only thing that brings us together is when we say, ‘We are from the Caribbean,’ whether you’re from Haiti, or Guyana or Jamaica.“

The new write-in question, number 9 on the 2020 Census form, which is opened to everyone, is a compromise and was made administratively by the Census Bureau.

“There were a whole lot of problems we had to face in this lobbying effort,” Persaud said. “So we decided we were going to settle for this, and we would accept this. And so this form is coded to read those ancestries or nationalities that are written in there.

“We were just happy to be able to get something to start, especially in this administration, because we weren’t sure it was even going to happen even though the national [Census] committee had approved the form in 2018.”

From concerns about the digital roll-out to questions about a potential under-count, this year’s constitutionally mandated count has not been immune from controversy.

Lawsuits erupted last year when the Trump administration proposed asking, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” on the survey. Community leaders and immigration activists from around the United States argued that allowing the question would lead to an inaccurate count.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court decided not to allow the citizenship question on the form, a decision that was consistent with the recommendations of every U.S. secretary of commerce dating back to 1950.

Now with the Census just days away — households will begin receiving a card on March 12 inviting them to go online or to call a number with 13 languages available to fill out the form — activists and organizations are pushing people to “stand up and be counted.”

“It’s intense this year and our push is to get people to complete the Census. We are not going to be picky,” said Gepsie Metellus, the executive director of Sant La Neighborhood Center, which provides social services to the Haitian-American community in Miami. “Given the president’s comments and statements, policies and tactics, what we are simply focused on is getting people to count and to count everyone in their household.”

Still, Gepsie, an early supporter of the CaribID 2010 campaign, applauds this year’s write-in opportunity.

“It’s about ensuring that we have a decent texture of the Haitian communities throughout the United States, ensuring that bilingual education and resources are properly allocated, and having an idea how many people are likely to become citizens after they pass their five-year requirements,” she said. “All of these resources’ implications have been at the basis for our push to get people to identify themselves.”

In addition to being used to allocate an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding based on states’ population counts, Census data is used to redraw voting districts and redistribute congressional seats and votes in the Electoral College.

Households that fail to fill out their forms will receive two additional reminders. Those who still fail to respond will receive a paper form in the mail they can fill out with pen or pencil. By mid-May, volunteers will also be fanning out to collect data.

“Right now, we want people to go online. They can either do it from their smart phone, tablet or laptop,” said Andrea Robinson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau Atlanta region. “We have governments that will also have phone banks, either at their offices or libraries. We are partnering with different civic organizations, churches and community leaders, ministers, priests, imams , rabbis, a host of people who have agreed to help us to make it as easy as possible.”

After years of being in the “other category,” when filling out the form, Persaud, who is black and Asian, said she is looking forward to for the first time also claiming her other identity. “I am Guyanese. That’s my ancestry and nationality.“

Source: Caribbean immigrants finally get to say where they’re from in Census. They aren’t alone

America’s census looks out of date in the age of big data

Similar issues with the Canadian census, no doubt, and the debate over StatsCan accessing bank financial data is an illustration of the potential and the privacy and political roadblocks (globalnews.ca › news › statistics-canada-pause-plan-obtain-banking-re…Statistics Canada hits pause on plan to obtain banking …):

A DOG-SLED or a snowmobile is the surest way to reach Toksook Bay in rural Alaska, where Steven Dillingham, the director of America’s census bureau, will arrive to count the first people in the country’s decennial population survey on January 21st. The task should not take long—there were only 590 villagers at the last count, in 2010—but it marks the beginning of a colossal undertaking. Everyone living in America will be asked about their age, sex, ethnicity and residence over the coming months (and some will be asked much more besides).

This census has already proved unusually incendiary. An attempt by President Donald Trump to include a question on citizenship, which might have discouraged undocumented immigrants from responding, was thwarted by the Supreme Court. His administration has also been accused in two lawsuits of underfunding the census, thus increasing the likelihood that minorities and vulnerable people, such as the homeless, will be miscounted.

ICYMI USA: Not on form, but brawl over citizenship question continues

We shall see the net result of these efforts on census participation once the Census is complete and analysed:

The U.S. Supreme Court decided a citizenship question won’t be on this spring’s census form, but that doesn’t mean the fight over it has ended in courtrooms across the country.

In Maryland, civil rights groups are trying to block an order from President Donald Trump to gather citizenship data through administrative records. In New York, other civil rights groups are seeking sanctions against Trump administration attorneys for not turning over documents related to the citizenship question’s origins. Democratic lawmakers in the District of Columbia are fighting for similar documents, and Alabama officials are suing the Census Bureau to keep immigrants living in the country illegally from being counted during the process that determines the number of congressional seats each state gets.

All of the lawsuits touch on whether the number of citizens, instead of the total population, will be used for redistricting or apportionment — the process of divvying up congressional seats among the states after the 2020 census. Opponents say doing so would dilute the influence of minorities and Democrats, which they argue was the true intent of the Trump administration’s desire to add a citizenship question in the first place.

The U.S. Constitution specifies that congressional districts should be based on how many people — not citizens — live there. But the legal requirements are murkier for state legislative districts.

Source: Not on form, but brawl over citizenship question continues

Homeland Security to share citizenship data with Census Bureau

Not surprising and there will certainly be some data issues as flagged, one’s that the administration will of course dismiss given the intent is more to disenfranchise minority voters and reduce the population count of states with higher numbers of immigrants (legal and other):

The Department of Homeland Security is agreeing to share citizenship information with the U.S. Census Bureau as part of President Donald Trump’s order to collect data on who is a citizen following the Supreme Court’s rejection of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form.

Trump’s order is being challenged in federal court, but meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security two weeks ago announced the agreement in a report. It said the agency would share administrative records to help the Census Bureau determine the number of citizens and non-citizens in the U.S., as well as the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Information to be shared includes personally identifiable data, the Homeland Security document says. Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing personally identifiable data, and the bureau says in its fact-sheet on privacy, “Your answers can only be used to produce statistics — they cannot be used against you in any way.”

The Census Bureau has promised the data will be kept for no more than two years, and will then be destroyed, according to the agreement. The data will be used to help the Census Bureau create a model estimating the likelihood that each person in the U.S. is a citizen, non-citizen or an immigrant in the country without legal permission.

Among the information Homeland Security will provide is a person’s alien identification number, country of birth and date of naturalization or naturalization application. The department is awaiting word on whether it will be allowed to release information on asylum and refugee applicants, which typically is prohibited from being disclosed.

Because a person’s citizenship status can change often over time, the citizenship data provided by Homeland Security will likely be inaccurate, said Andrea Senteno, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the civil rights groups challenging Trump’s order in federal court in Maryland.

“The information out there over whether someone is a non-citizen or what type of immigrant status they may be is going to have a lot of holes in it,” Senteno said.

The Homeland Security document acknowledges risks that the Census Bureau will assign an inaccurate immigration status to someone, that people won’t be able to correct mistakes about themselves and that Homeland Security information will be linked inaccurately to data from other sources used by the Census Bureau.

“Linking records between datasets is not likely to be 100% accurate,” the Homeland Security document notes.

Trump ordered the Census Bureau to collect citizenship information through administrative records from federal agencies and the 50 states after the Supreme Court ruled against his administration last summer by deciding that a citizenship question wouldn’t be allowed on this spring’s 2020 Census questionnaire.

The administration had said the question was being added to aid in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters’ access to the ballot box. But Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four more liberal members in saying the administration’s current justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.”

Opponents of the citizenship question had argued it would scare off immigrants, Hispanics and others from participating in the once-a-decade headcount. The 2020 Census will help determine how many congressional seats each state gets as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funds.

The federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s order to collect the citizenship data claims that the data gathering is motivated by “a racially discriminatory scheme” to reduce the political power of Latinos and increase the representation of non-Latino whites.

As part of the order, the U.S. Census Bureau has asked state drivers’ license bureaus for records, but so far only Nebraska has agreed to cooperate.

Gathering the citizenship data would give the states the option to design state and legislative districts using voter-age citizen numbers instead of the total population, Trump said in the order. The U.S. Constitution specifies that congressional districts should be based on how many people — not citizens — live there. But it’s murkier for many state legislative districts. Opponents fear that using just citizen figures would make legislative districts more Republican-leaning and less diverse.

“Whether that approach is permissible will be resolved when a state actually proposes a districting plan based on the voter-eligible population,” Trump’s order said. “But because eligibility to vote depends in part on citizenship, states could more effectively exercise this option with a more accurate and complete count of the citizen population.”

Source: Homeland Security to share citizenship data with Census Bureau

Census Bureau Releases Preliminary Results Of 2019 Test Of Citizenship Question

Will be interesting to see the detailed analysis and review by outside experts:

If the Trump administration had been allowed to add the now-blocked citizenship question to the 2020 census, it likely would not have had a significant effect on self-response rates, the Census Bureau said Thursday.

Preliminary analysis of a national experiment the Census Bureau conducted earlier this year with two versions of a test census form — one with a citizenship question and one without — suggests that question could lower self-response rates in some parts of the country and for some populations. In a blog postreleased Thursday, the bureau highlighted a 0.3% difference in the share of participants identifying as Hispanic.

Still, the differences overall were “small,” according to Victoria Velkoff, the bureau’s associate director for demographic programs who wrote the post.

The bureau’s early findings could temper some concerns that including the question would deter households, especially those with noncitizens, from taking part in the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S.

The Census Bureau randomly selected approximately 480,000 households across the country, except in remote Alaska and Puerto Rico, to take part in what it has called the “2019 Census Test.” Half of those households were asked to complete test forms with the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

The bureau scrambled to put together the test earlier this year in response to the administration’s push for the question. It’s not clear when the bureau plans to release a final report on the experiment.

Some critics of the citizenship question are holding their judgment of the bureau’s early findings. An earlier study by researchers at the bureau suggested the question would have deterred at least 9 million people from self-responding to the census.

“All other research to date by the Census Bureau has indicated that adding a citizenship question to the census would depress responses among noncitizens and Hispanics,” Dale Ho, an ACLU attorney who is helping to represent plaintiffs in lawsuits over the question, said in a written statement. “We look forward to seeing whether the full results of this latest study are consistent with the bureau’s previous findings in this regard.”

But in a statement, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — who oversees the bureau and approved adding the question — called the preliminary results “gratifying news to those who supported its inclusion.”

Throughout the legal battle over the question, opponents raised concerns that adding a citizenship question would force the Census Bureau into spending more time and money to gather responses from reluctant households.

However, the bureau’s preliminary analysis of its field test suggests it would not have needed more door knockers to follow up with people in households who did not fill out a form themselves, Velkoff wrote in the blog post.

Velkoff added that it’s unclear from these test results how the question could have impacted the “completeness and accuracy” of the 2020 census overall.

The bureau’s early findings come more than a year and a half after Ross announced his decision in 2018 to add the hotly contested question. This summer, three federal courts permanently blocked the question from being added — in part because the bureau had not conducted required testing of public reaction to including a citizenship question on 2020 census forms.

The nine-week test took place in the midst of a heated legal battle over the question. By early July, it sparked confusion around the country about why the bureau was continuing to use census forms to ask about people’s U.S. citizenship status after a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off.

The bureau has said the test results could be “valuable” to any officials considering adding such a question to future census forms.

After backing down from efforts to use the 2020 census to ask about citizenship status, the Trump administration is now moving forward with compiling government records to produce detailed citizenship data.

In an executive order released in July, President Trump said that he wants the data to be available for state redistricting officials to use when redrawing voting districts after the national head count. A prominent GOP redistricting strategist, Thomas Hofeller, has concluded that this kind of citizenship data could give Republicans and non-Hispanic white people a political advantage.

In his executive order, Trump also left open the possibility of a resurrected political fight over a census citizenship question. The president directed the commerce secretary, who oversees the Census Bureau, to “consider initiating any administrative process necessary to include a citizenship question on the 2030 decennial census.”

Source: Census Bureau Releases Preliminary Results Of 2019 Test Of Citizenship Question

Before the 2020 Census Citizenship Fight, a Parallel Crisis

Another historical reminder:

After months of headlines, presidential tweets and a Supreme Court decision, the 2020 Census will not ask people about their citizenship status.

President Donald Trump and his advisers tried to add the question, claiming it was necessary to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, while Census Bureau officials, civil rights advocates and a coalition of dozens of states and cities argued the real intent was to scare immigrants and prevent a growing portion of the U.S. population from being counted. The Supreme Court ultimately blocked the citizenship question and ruled the Administration’s justification was “contrived” — but the controversy is far from over, and is sure to come up when the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, testifies before Congress on Wednesday.

But this is not the first time such debates have surfaced. The census has always been political, since the framers of the Constitution created it as a tool for determining political representation, and today’s controversy over the 2020 Census specifically echoes a crisis that occurred almost exactly 100 years ago.

Then, as now, the controversy centered on the presence of immigrants and the rising importance of cities. These changes were key because the Census not only counts how many people live in the U.S., but it also determines how much voting power and funding different areas of the country receive; as populations change, so do they. Those measurements are supposed to be updated as each Census is conducted every 10 years, and it has long been understood that a correct update requires counting all residents, not just all citizens.

But when the 1920 Census results came out, Congress was so unhappy with its results that they ignored the numbers for nearly a decade, refusing to adjust even as the composition of the American population was clearly changing.

The years leading up to that Census had already seen a rise of anti-immigrant fervor, concern over labor unions and other “radicals,” and race riots igniting across the Midwest. It was in this context that the 1920 Census determined that the U.S. not only already included a large number of immigrants, but also that the majority of Americans officially lived in cities for the first time in the nation’s history. This represented a major shift from just a few decades earlier, when most Americans lived in the countryside and many worked on farms. Now, the country had become industrialized and the government had evidence that people were flocking to urban areas from their rural surroundings and from abroad. Applying the results of the Census would mean moving power and funding to cities, which leaned toward the Democratic Party.

This all proved too much for the Republican-dominated Congress, many of whom were elected from rural districts. So the members of Congress claimed the census numbers simply had to be wrong.

Source: Before the 2020 Census Citizenship Fight, a Parallel Crisis

Analysis: Why the 2020 census doesn’t need a citizenship question to count the undocumented

Good in depth analysis for data nerds:

It is now clear that there will be no question about citizenship on the 2020 U.S. Census.

After the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration, President Trump vowed to find a way to include the question. But with no legal path forward and time running out, the administration ultimately backed down.

Opponents of the citizenship question remain concerned about the census, though hopeful that more immigrant households will respond to the census now that the question has been removed.

But others worry that it will be much harder to keep track of undocumented immigrants. President Trump argued that a citizenship question was needed, saying: “I think it is very important to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal.”

However, a citizenship question wouldn’t actually help the government distinguish between who is an undocumented immigrant and who is not. The question distinguishes only between citizens and noncitizens, and noncitizens are not the same as undocumented immigrants. For example, three out of five noncitizens are in the country legally.

Even more importantly, demographers have figured out a simple and effective way to estimate the number of unauthorized immigrants – even without information on citizenship. In the last five years, my colleagues Frank D. Bean, James D. Bachmeier and I have conducted a series of studies that evaluate this method and its assumptions.

Our research on the methods used to estimate the size of the group indicates that existing estimates – putting the undocumented population at about 11 million – are reasonably accurate.

Here’s how it works.

What’s the formula?

Beginning in the late 1970s, a group of demographers consisting primarily of Jeffrey Passel, Robert Warren, Jacob Siegel, Gregory Robinson and Karen Woodrow introduced the “residual method” for estimating the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the country.

At the time, Passel and his collaborators were affiliated with the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Warren with the Office of Immigration Statistics of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Much of this work was published in the form of internal reports, but some of it appeared in major journals.

The residual method uses an estimate of the total foreign-born population in the country, based on U.S. Census data. Researchers then subtract from it the number of legal immigrants residing here, estimated from government records of legal immigrants who receive “green cards” minus the number that died or left the country. The result is an estimate of the unauthorized population.

Various adjustments are typically made to this formula. Most adjustments are minor, but a particularly important one adjusts for what researchers call “coverage error” among the unauthorized foreign-born. Coverage error occurs when the census data underestimate the size of a group. This can occur when people live in nonresidential or unconventional locations – such as on the streets or in a neighbor’s basement – or when they fail to respond to the census.

Coverage error could be particularly high among unauthorized immigrants because they may be trying to avoid detection. The Census Bureau’s own research suggests that asking about citizenship would likely aggravate this issue.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Center for Migration Studies are the major producers of estimates of the unauthorized foreign-born population.

Chart by The Conversation, CC-BY-ND. Data source: <a href="https://www.pewhispanic.org/2019/06/03/facts-on-u-s-immigrants/" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" >Pew Research Center</a>

Chart by The Conversation, CC-BY-ND. Data source: Pew Research Center

How accurate are the estimates?

The residual method has been widely used and accepted since the late 1970s. Within a reasonable margin of error, it predicted the number of unauthorized immigrants to legalize under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which, among other things, granted permanent residency status to unauthorized immigrants who had been living in the country since 1982. The residual method predicted that about 2.2 millionmet the residency requirement; the actual number to come forward was about 1.7 million.

Both Department of Homeland Security and Pew have used the residual method to estimate the unauthorized population since 2005. Despite using slightly different data and assumptions, Pew’s, Department of Homeland Security’s, and the Center for Migration Studies’s estimates have never differed by more than 1 million people, less than 10% of the total unauthorized population.

Nevertheless, skeptics question a key assumption of the residual method, which is that unauthorized immigrants participate in census surveys. All three organizations listed above inflate their estimates to account for the possibility that some unauthorized immigrants are missing from census data. For example, Pew inflates by about 13%. But is this enough?

My colleagues and I estimated coverage error among Mexican immigrants, a group that composes 60% of all unauthorized immigrants.

Even if they are not counted in a census, populations leave “footprints” of their presence in the form of deaths and births. Because people give birth and die with known regularity, regardless of their legal status, we were able to use birth and death records of all Mexican-born persons to determine the number of Mexican-born persons living in the U.S. We also looked at changes in Mexican census data between 1990 and 2010 to gauge the size of Mexico’s “missing” population, most of whom moved to the U.S.

We then compared these estimates with the estimated number of Mexican immigrants in census data. We found that the census missed as many as 26% of unauthorized immigrants in the early 2000s.

We speculated that this could have been due to the large numbers of temporary Mexican labor migrants who were living in the U.S. at the time. Because many worked in construction during the housing boom and lived in temporary housing arrangements, it may have been particularly difficult to accurately account for them in census surveys.

However, when the Great Recession and housing crisis hit, many of these temporary workers went home or stopped coming to the U.S. in the first place, and coverage error declined. By 2010, the coverage error may have been as low as 6% and does not appear to have changed much since then.

If current levels of coverage error for all unauthorized immigrants were as high as 26%, then the number living in the country could be as high as 13 million. But if coverage error were as low as 6%, then the figure could be as low as 10.3 million. The true number likely falls within that narrow range.

What this boils down to is that demographers already have a pretty good idea of the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., even without relying on citizenship data. If coverage error has declined as much as we think it has, then the truth is at the lower end of this range.

Will administrative records improve the estimates?

Looking ahead, methods could change as new data become available.

In the wake of its Supreme Court loss, the Trump administration issued an executive order directing government agencies to share administrative data on citizenship.

They want to link information on citizenship and immigration status in administrative records to everyone’s census responses. For example, the executive order requests the Department of Homeland Security’s records on refugee and asylum visas, as well as Master Beneficiary Records from the Social Security Administration. They want to use this information to estimate the undocumented population at very detailed levels of geography for purposes of redistricting, reapportionment and the allocation of public funds.

(It is worth noting that the Census Bureau is a fortress when it comes to protecting your data. Under federal law, the Census Bureau cannot share your personal information with anyone, including other government agencies such as ICE.)

Regardless of how anyone feels about these policy proposals, administrative data may not be up to the task. In my view, administrative records are complicated to use. They can provide inconsistent information about the same person depending on which agency’s records are used.

Additionally, the records will be of limited value for describing those who fall outside of the administrative records system, which can happen for all kinds of reasons. Even if the Trump administration uses administrative records to estimate the undocumented population, researchers will still need to make assumptions about coverage error, just like they do for the residual method.

Overall, I suspect that administrative records could help answer some narrowly defined questions about immigrants and improve national estimates. The jury is still out about their ability to provide definitive answers about the precise numbers of undocumented immigrants, particularly at detailed levels of geography.

Source: Analysis: Why the 2020 census doesn’t need a citizenship question to count the undocumented

In killing citizenship question, Trump adopts Census Bureau’s preferred solution to a thorny problem

After all the sound and fury, after all the lies and pretence:

President Donald Trump’s decision this afternoon to abandon plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and instead rely on existing government records to generate citizenship statistics matches the Census Bureau’s preferred option for dealing with the politically explosive issue. It’s also a win for those who have wanted to keep such a charged question off the decennial headcount.

“This is Option C,” says former Census Director John Thompson, referring to a March 2018 memo in which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spelled out several options for developing a citizenship tally, and gave his rationale for deciding to include the question on the count that will begin on 1 April. Option C “is what the Census Bureau proposed to Secretary Ross,” adds Thompson, who stepped down in June 2017, a few months after Ross began his clandestine efforts to get the Department of Justice to request the question. Ross eventually chose what he called Option D, a combination of using information already in government agency files, known as administrative records, along with a yes/no question about citizenship on the census questionnaire sent to U.S. households.

The Supreme Court, however, blocked Ross’s decision, saying he had violated administrative law by providing a “contrived” rather than a “genuine” explanation for why he wanted to add the question. Critics of the question say it would have prompted many people living in the United States to decline to answer the census, leading to an undercount of the population, and was motivated by a desire to reduce the political power of regions that tend to support Democratic candidates.

Today, speaking at a hastily arranged one-way press conference in which he took no questions, Trump said he will issue an executive order telling every federal agency to “immediately” provide the Commerce Department with “all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in our country.” He said the goal is to generate “an accurate count of how many citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens are in the United States of America. Not too much to ask.”

Census experts say that the agency should be able to satisfy the president’s request to develop data on the first two categories – citizens and non-citizens. And the Census Bureau already has agreements with a number of federal and state agencies that allow it to access administrative records that include some citizenship information, according to this 2018 analysis by bureau researchers. But using administrative records to determine the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is not possible, the experts say. And that’s a good thing, believes Robert Santos, vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

“What this administration really wanted was a tally of those who are undocumented,” says Santos, who is also president-elect of the American Statistical Association. “But that’s not going to happen. They will fly under the radar.” As a result, he says, “now they can participate in the census without fear” of political repercussions.

It’s also good news for Census Bureau, he adds. Extracting the agency from the bitterly partisan national debate over immigration should allow it to do its job of carrying out a complete and accurate census, he says.

Civil rights groups opposing the question also hailed the president’s decision as a victory but said they hadn’t given up their fight against the administration’s policies. “This is a welcome reprieve of his partisan agenda, and a win for all communities,” says Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference Education Fund in Washington, D.C. “[But] we remain on guard to combat any attempts to sabotage a fair and accurate count.”

Source: In killing citizenship question, Trump adopts Census Bureau’s preferred solution to a thorny problem

And further commentary:

Donald Trump pretended he was doing something meaningful on Thursday after he was forced to cave in on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

But his post-cave bait-and-switch to push an executive order is also going up in flames almost immediately after it was issued.

Page said:

“So just saying it’s not a cave does not make it not a cave. Just the attorney general saying congratulations, Mr. President, does not make it a congratulatory moment. And the executive order, it is not at all clear that it’s necessary to have a new executive order to give publicly available data from federal agencies to the Commerce Department. That would seem to be something that would be easy to do. And in fact, as you noted, the government already calculates the number of illegal immigrants and the number of non-citizens who live in this country, and they’ve done that for some time.”

Trump is pulling out all the distractions after his census cave-in

Donald Trump’s executive order stunt that he announced on Thursday isn’t the only distraction he’s pulling out following his census loss.

It was also reported today that the administration would move forward with its raids on thousands of undocumented migrant families. According to The New York Times, “Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families have been scheduled to begin Sunday, according to two current and one former homeland security officials.”

The raids, which had been delayed last month due to widespread backlash, will likely separate more families. Even the president’s acting DHS secretary has admitted as much.

Of course, none of these steps are being taken because they are sound policy solutions. They are just the latest in a two-year string of distractions meant to paper over an endless string of policy and political failures from this White House.

Source: Trump’s Citizenship Executive Order Is Already Going Up In Flames

The Other Census Disaster That’s Waiting to Happen

Have seen earlier discussion of the issue but this is the most comprehensive analysis:

Everyone hoping for an accurate 2020 Census breathed a sigh of relief two weeks ago when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to block the Trump administration’s cynical attempt to add a citizenship question to the forms—only to experience Twitter-tantrum whiplash when the president ordered his administration to make a last-ditch attempt to include it.

But with so much attention focused on the controversy over the citizenship question, another similarly disastrous Census Bureau decision has gone largely unnoticed: the administration’s choice not to substantively update the decennial survey’s questions on race. As a result, no matter how conscientiously Census Bureau staff administer the survey, a woefully inadequate portrait of the changing face of America will emerge.

The last census, in 2010, became a data disaster when “some other race,” showed up as the third-largest racial group in America. Over 20 million respondents, most with roots in Latin America or the Middle East, selected this none-of-the-above option, making it the most popular choice after white and black. Any time a public-opinion survey asks respondents to self-categorize and “none of the above” comes back as a popular answer, it’s a clear sign that the choices given don’t match up with people’s identities.

Facing this problem squarely, the Obama administration convened the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations, a panel of academic experts and minority community leaders, to advise the Bureau on improving its race questions for 2020. The committee made myriad recommendations, most crucially suggesting that a “Middle East or North Africa” category sit alongside the “Hispanic origins” box in the upcoming questionnaire. But the Trump administration overruled this advice and, aside from a few minor tweaks, is flying into the 2020 survey without substantive changes. Given continued Latin American and Middle Eastern immigration since 2010, and the more extreme forms of racial “othering” these groups have faced ever since candidate Donald J. Trump came down the escalator in 2015, experts fear that “some other race” will become the second-largest racial group in America according to the 2020 Census.

Every census since the founding of the country has asked about race and ethnicity. Until recent decades, race was not a matter of self-identification; historically, federal census-takers were charged with determining the race of each resident of their assigned census tracts according to their era’s standards. Tracing how race questions have changed over time offers a time-lapse history of American racial concepts in 10-year snapshots. (All of the race questions are conveniently archived on the website racebox.org.)

The most drastic changes to the census race questions took place after the fall of Reconstruction, at the rise of Jim Crow, when America’s mixed-race realities were blotted out and a strict racial binary imposed. Openly mixed-race activists, in particular Charleston’s “Browns” and New Orleans’s “Creoles of color,” had been central to post-Civil War civil rights progress. Their court challenges to segregation, of which Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was only the last and most famous, assailed the notion that Europeans and Africans remained distinct racial groups in America given centuries of overt and covert race-mixing. At the time, the “one-drop rule” that any African ancestry at all made an American a “Negro” was still new and not widely accepted. This more fluid racial mindset was reflected in the late 19th-century censuses, which all catalogued biracial “mulattos” as distinct from “whites” and “blacks.” The 1890 questionnaire recorded even finer-grained mixed-race categories: “quadroon” (an American with three European grandparents and one African grandparent) and “octoroon” (an American with seven European great-grandparents and one African great-grandparent). But with the firm establishment of the color line post-Plessy, the 1900 census switched to a unitary race. (Not until 2000 would the census again allow respondents to claim mixed-race identities, this time by checking more than one racial box.)

“Only in 1980 did the Census begin to grapple with Latino identity.”

As segregation took root, the stakes of being deemed “white” grew higher. Even as Jim Crow laws proliferated in the early 20th century, the states differed on their official definitions of what exactly a “white person” was and who precisely constituted a “colored person.” Myriad ethnic groups clamored to get into whiteness, often petitioning through the courts. “Semites,” for example, won their way into whiteness using clever, albeit pseudo-scientific, arguments. Their trump card, first argued in 1907 by H. A. Elkourie, a Syrian Christian physician in Birmingham, Alabama, was that if he wasn’t white then Jesus hadn’t been white either. Anglo-Americans’ revulsion at the thought they were worshipping a person of color each Sunday was strong enough that Elkourie and the fellow members of his “Semitic” “race” were deemed “white.”

The next major revamp of the census’s race questions came in the wake of the 1960s civil rights movement. For the first time, the Census Bureau empowered each respondent to choose her own race rather than have a census-taker determine it for her. And embracing the modern understanding that race has no biological reality, only societal meanings, the Census Bureau modified the racial categories to learn more about American society rather than engage in the fool’s errand of sorting humans into some fixed number of distinct races. To this end, the 1970 Census listed eight racial categories, one of which was “Hawaiian”—a useful category for understanding American society but a group so tiny no early-20th-century race scientists ever elevated it into their core “Races of Man.”

Only in 1980 did the census begin to grapple with Latino identity. Rather than add “Hispanic” to the list of races, it introduced a question to stand apart from the various racial choices: “Is this person of Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent?” By noting that Hispanics can be of any race, the Census Bureau hoped to track the growth of this community that comes in all colors. But this well-meaning attempt never fully worked since the Latin American and Anglo-American conceptions of race are fundamentally incompatible.

While the U.S., after Reconstruction, forced Americans to claim a retroactive racial purity, Latin America never denied its mestizo realities. On the most recent Brazilian census, for example, the majority of respondents identified as afrodecendente (Afro-descended). But in Brazil this identity does not in any way suggest that the same person is not also of European, Native American, and/or Asian descent; indeed, over 80 percent of self-identified afrodecendente Brazilians claimed roots on non-African continents as well.

In Mexico, the concept of race (la raza) is even more un-American. The Mexican supposition is that the people of the New World are, in a sense, a new race unto themselves, a mixture of all the world’s peoples. It is these mutually-incompatible conceptions of race between the U.S. and Latin America that has led millions of census respondents to check that they are of Latino origin but are members of “some other race.”

Arab-Americans are similarly migrants from an alternate racial system. Arab identity embraces people of all skin colors and is largely tied to language—people whose mother tongue is Arabic are Arabs even if they don’t live on Asia’s Arabian Peninsula. Though officially white in America since the early-20th-century rulings that “Semites” are white, contemporary American racism has again called Arab whiteness into question.

“The best-case scenario is that none-of-the-above comes out as the third-largest race in America rather than second-largest.”

The most recent federal definition of a “white person,” formulated in 1997 by the Office of Management and Budget and currently used by the Census Bureau—“A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa”—clearly includes Arabs. But if “whiteness” has no biological reality and is purely a socially-constructed category in American society for those who enjoy full citizenship, including the presumption of innocence, since 9/11, Middle Easterners have no longer been white. This mismatch between being officially white by the federal definition but not being treated as white in American society has sparked a wildcat campaign among some Middle Easterners not to check the “white” box on the Census (tag-line: “Check it right, you ain’t white”). Indeed, the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations found many Middle Eastern- and North African-Americans are doing just that, checking “some other race” in defiance of the current federal definition of whiteness.

At this point the 2020 race questions are set, with just a few tweaks from 2010. The 2020 form will include “Lebanese” and “Egyptian” as examples of white ethnicities to remind Arabs to, essentially, “check it right, you are white.” The new wording also adds “Aztec” and “Mayan” as examples of American Indian ethnicities to instruct people with roots in the New World beyond the United States borders that they should still identify themselves as indigenous.

Even with these minor changes, the best-case scenario is that none-of-the-above comes out as the third-largest race in America rather than second-largest. Whiteness in America is in flux today in a way it hasn’t been in a century—even if the Census Bureau’s political appointees, in keeping with the Trump administration’s Know-Nothingism on race, won’t admit it. An administration that has backed border walls and Muslim bans has already shown Latinos and Middle Easterners that, if whiteness means first-class citizenship, they’re no longer white. The painful irony is that the rise of “some other race” at first glance suggests America is becoming post-racial, while its real roots are in rising racism.

Source: The Other Census Disaster That’s Waiting to Happen