Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census

The truth will out but whether it will be consequential is another matter:

The Trump White House produces no shortage of eye-catching, headline-grabbing acts of malfeasance. Brazenly blatant acts of corruption, titillating tell-alls from the president’s porn-star paramours, and proto-authoritarian Twitter tantrums are constantly competing for limited headline space.

And yet, this administration is arguably most dangerous when it’s at its most boring. In the dull, gray innards of the federal bureaucracies, Donald Trump’s minions are making profoundly consequential (and, in many cases, deeply corrupt) decisions that will never make the “A block” of a single cable news show.

And no set of decisions has broader potential implications for our democracy than those the Commerce Department has made regarding the 2020 census.

The U.S. government’s decennial attempt to count every human being within its borders might seem like one of Uncle Sam’s most anodyne activities. But when those overseeing the count belong to a political movement that explicitly regards demographic change as its enemy — and disenfranchising Democratic constituencies as fair game — the Census can begin to resemble an ominous enterprise. Census data shapes the contours of political districts, and determines each state’s clout in the Electoral College. It dictates what proportion of federal funding for schools, roads, and libraries each state is entitled to. Thus, if a Republican administration found a facially neutral way of systematically undercounting residents in Democratic-leaning areas, it could inflate red America’s (already disproportionate) influence over our political system.

And the Trump administration appeared to be doing just that last March, when it decided to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census. By that point, the White House had already (unsuccessfully) attempted to put a leading proponent of GOP gerrymandering (who had no experience managing a large bureaucracy) in charge of overseeing the Census, while refusing to hire noncitizen Census-takers for the purpose of reaching immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Census Bureau researchers had already warned that test surveys were prompting “unprecedented” levels of concern from immigrants, who feared that providing the government with information about themselves would result in their deportation. Census data cannot be legally used for immigration enforcement. But, for understandable reasons, undocumented immigrants weren’t eager to bet their capacity to live in the United States on the Trump administration’s commitment to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Commerce Department’s decision to ask Census respondents about their citizenship status, for the first time since 1950, looked like a deliberate attempt to exacerbate this problem. And if the citizenship question did, in fact, depress undocumented immigrants’ participation in the Census — and thereby, lead the federal government to systematically undercount them — there would be obvious benefits to the GOP: Most undocumented immigrants live in Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, so the fewer of them the government counts, the greater the share of federal money and political influence that rural, Republican-leaning areas will receive.

And the GOP had another, equally controversial incentive for surveying the American public about their citizenship. The judiciary has long insisted that U.S. House districts must be drawn on the basis of total population — not total voters — so that children, prisoners, undocumented immigrants, and others who lack access to the ballot are provided with indirect representation. But some conservative groups have mulled drawing state and local districts on the basis of eligible voters (ostensibly, so as to minimize the influence that godless city slickers wield over state capitols). In 2016, the Supreme Court indicated that it might approve of such a practice. But without Census data on citizens and noncitizens, red states would have no means of giving voters-only districting a try.

Still, the Trump administration insisted that its decision to alter the Census was rooted in only the purest of motives — specifically, a heartfelt desire to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. In congressional testimony, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained that his bureau only began considering the citizenship question after the Department of Justice indicated that it needed such information to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of course, the idea that Jeff Sessions was desperate for new tools he could use in lawsuits against southern states with racially discriminatory political practices never passed the smell test. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of American politics knew that Ross was “trolling the libs.”Still, it wasn’t clear whether the administration’s bad faith could be proven. And this was an important distinction — because if advocates for immigrant communities could establish, through documentary evidence, that the Trump administration had a discriminatory intent when it added the citizenship question to the Census, they just might be able to get a court to strike it down.

And on Monday, New York attorney general Barbara Underwood revealed what appears to be a smoking gun. As part of her lawsuit challenging the Census question, Underwood publicly filed a newly unredacted internal Commerce Department memo, which reveals that the Justice Department (DOJ) did not initiate the request for the citizenship question — but rather, resisted Commerce’s initial attempts to extract such a request from it.

Now, the DOJ did issue a formal request for a question about citizenship status in December of 2017 — but only after the Commerce Department had spent months lobbying for such a request. As NPR reports:

[M]emos and emails released previously as part of the lawsuits over the question already have contradicted Ross’ testimony. They make clear that Ross was eager to add the question shortly after he was confirmed as commerce secretary in February 2017 … Earl Comstock — a key Commerce Department official on census-related issues — first approached Justice Department officials in May 2017. Comstock eventually discussed the issue with James McHenry, a Justice Department official working on immigration issues who now oversees the immigration courts as the head of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

“Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter),” Comstock wrote to Ross in a newly unredacted portion of the memo, which is dated Sept. 8, 2017.

With the DOJ looking to avoid controversy amid the fallout from Trump’s firing of James Comey, the Commerce Department began searching for other agencies that might force it to ask U.S. residents about their citizenship. The memo reveals that Comstock sought a request from the Department of Homeland Security, only to have DHS refer him back to the DOJ. Comstock then directed an attorney at the Commerce Department “to look into the legal issues and how Commerce could add the question to the Census itself,” according to a previously redacted portion of the memo.

All of which is to say: On Monday, the state of New York ostensibly revealed that the Commerce Secretary lied to Congress about his rationale for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — a development that lends credence to the claim that the Trump administration is deliberately trying to engineer an inaccurate count of the U.S. population in hopes of consolidating their party’s grip on power through anti-democratic means.

And this wasn’t enough to qualify as headline news.

Source: Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census

U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910, With More Coming From Asia

Significant shift.

Extent to which it may change the tenor of US immigration debates, largely over illegal and undocumented immigration from Mexico and Central America unclear:

The foreign-born population in the United States has reached its highest share since 1910, according to government data released Thursday, and the new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades.

The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009.

“This is quite different from what we had thought,” said William H. Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution who conducted the analysis. “We think of immigrants as being low-skilled workers from Latin America, but for recent arrivals that’s much less the case. People from Asia have overtaken people from Latin America.”

The new data was released as the nation’s changing demography has become a flash point in American politics. President Trump, and many Republicans, have sounded alarms about immigration and suggested the government needs to restrict both the number and types of people coming into the country.

The last historic peak in immigration to the United States came at the end of the 19th century, when large numbers of Europeans fled poverty and violence in their home countries. Some of the largest numbers came from Germany, Italy and Poland. That wave peaked around the turn of the century, when the total foreign-born population stood at nearly 15 percent. But after the passage of strict racial quotas in the 1920s, the foreign-born population fell sharply for decades in the middle of the 20th century. By 1970, the population was below 5 percent.

The passage of a more liberal immigration law in 1965, which ended ethnic quotas and prioritized family reunification, ushered in new demographics. And the changes have only accelerated in recent years.

For many years, Mexico was the single largest contributor of immigrants. But since 2010, the number of immigrants arriving from Mexico has declined, while those from China and India have surged. Since 2010, the increase in the number of people from Asia — 2.6 million — was more than double the 1.2 million who came from Latin America, Mr. Frey found.

The foreign-born population stood at 13.7 percent in 2017, or 44.5 million people, compared with 13.5 percent in 2016.

Some of the largest gains were in states with the smallest immigrant populations, suggesting that immigrants were spreading out in the country. New York and California, states with large immigrant populations, both had increases of less than six percent since 2010. But foreign-born populations rose by 20 percent in Tennessee, 13 percent in Ohio, 12 percent in South Carolina and 20 percent in Kentucky over the same period.

Emmanuel D’Souza, a nurse practitioner in Dayton, Ohio, who emigrated from India in 2004, said he has noticed a growing and thriving Indian population in his area.

“Now when you go to the grocery store at 5 or 6 in the evening, you see a lot of Indian people, buying vegetables after work,” said Mr. D’Souza.

He said he saw fewer Indian people when he bought his house in 2009 than he does today. Now he counted at least four temples and two mosques, and said there are two Indian specialty grocery stores. Mr. D’Souza, 41, who is Catholic, also sees Indians in church on Sundays.

The data also suggests a political pattern among states with large percentages of foreign-born residents. Of the 15 states with the highest concentration of immigrants, all but three — Florida, Texas and Arizona — voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Many of the states with low and moderate concentrations of foreign-born people voted for Mr. Trump, Mr. Frey found.

In those low-concentration states, foreign-born populations tended to be more educated than the native-born. In Ohio, for example, 43 percent of the foreign-born population is college educated, compared with just 27 percent of American-born Ohioans. About 43 percent of the foreign-born population is from Asia, far more than the 20 percent from Latin America.

The same can be true in states with large immigrant populations. About 15 percent of the population of Maryland last year was foreign-born. Of those people, 42 percent had college degrees, compared with 39 percent of American-born Marylanders.

Chao Wu, a data scientist in Columbia, Maryland, who came from China in 2003, said he had long known about Asian graduate students in the United States, because he had been one. But it wasn’t until he started running for a seat on his county’s board of education that he noticed the richness and variation in the population.

“I increased my outreach and I realized there was a big Asian-American business community, with restaurants and grocery stores,” he said. He said he recently helped organize a ceremony in his town with a sister city in China. A portion of Route 40 was renamed Korean Way.

But the rising levels of education are not lifting everyone. Asian-Americans are now the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the country, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Income inequality among Asian-Americans nearly doubled from 1970 to 2016.

While people from Asia make up the largest share of recent newcomers, a majority of the country’s total foreign-born population is still from Latin America — 50 percent, compared to 31 percent from Asia.

North Dakota had the single largest percentage increase in foreign-born residents since 2010, Mr. Frey said, with the number going up by 87 percent. Dr. Fadel E. Nammour, a gastroenterologist in Fargo, N.D., who moved to the United States from Lebanon in 1996, said he has noticed more immigrant-owned restaurants since he moved to North Dakota in 2002. In recent years, the state has settled refugees from countries including Iraq, Somalia and Congo. In all, foreign-born people in North Dakota rose to 31,000 in 2017 from just 16,600 in 2010, Mr. Frey found.

“There is more diversity now,” Dr. Nammour said. “You can tell by food. There are Indian places that opened up. We have an African place now. Little things that are a little bit different.”

Source: Immigrants, Many from Asia, Reach Highest Share of U.S. Population Since 1910Immigrants, Many from Asia, Reach Highest Share of U.S. Population Since 1910The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States.The new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades.

Fewer people are answering a US agency’s citizenship query. That’s fueling fears for the 2020 census

Interesting given that this trend predates Trump and the increased anti-immigrant and xenophobic discourse:

A growing number of Americans are not willing to disclose their citizenship status on a government survey, according to new research. The finding adds fuel to an already fierce political debate over adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

State officials and civil rights groups have sued Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, challenging his decision earlier this year to add such a question to the decennial census. Ross’s opponents worry some groups, notably foreign-born residents, will shy away from answering the question because of the current hyperpartisan battle over U.S. immigration policy. That could undermine the accuracy of the constitutionally mandated exercise used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and allocate $800 billion in federal funds, they say. The new data appear to bolster that argument by documenting rising nonresponse rates to the question on a related Census Bureau survey.

Citizenship is one of 72 questions on the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual sampling of 3.5 million households that in 2005 replaced the long form of the decennial census. The new study finds that the portion of respondents who did not answer the ACS citizenship question more than doubled between 2010 through 2016, from 2.7% to 6%. In contrast, the nonresponse rates for other demographic questions on the ACS—including race, sex, age, and Hispanic origin—remained constant, at less than 2%.

“This suggests an increased sensitivity to being asked about citizenship,” says Indivar Dutta-Gupta of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., which released the report late last week. “The findings lend support to the conclusions of many experts, including former census directors, state officials, and the National Academy of Sciences, that a citizenship question will increase the risks for the 2020 census,” says the author, demographer William O’Hare, a veteran census data cruncher and consultant based in Baltimore, Maryland.

O’Hare found that nonresponse rates on the citizenship question also varied greatly by geography in ways that could jeopardize an accurate reapportionment. The highest rates—Arizona led at 9% and California, New York, and Colorado all exceeded 7%—are home to large numbers of immigrants. The lowest rates, below 4%, were found in Vermont, West Virginia, and Maine—states with relatively small immigrant populations.

No answer

In recent years, a growing number of respondents to the American Community Survey are not answering a question about their citizenship. Nonresponse rates to other demographic questions, however, have remained stable.
(GRAPH) D. MALAKOFF/SCIENCE; (DATA) WILLIAM P. O’HARE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY

There was also variability by racial and ethnic group. Asian-Americans and Hispanics had nonresponse rates of 8.1% and 7.4%, respectively, whereas the rate for non-Hispanic whites was 5.6%. Some 8.3% of foreign-born residents ignored the question, compared with only 5.7% of those born in the United States.

The mode of response also matters. O’Hare found that nonresponse rates were highest among those who answered the ACS online, at 8%. In contrast, 6.7% of those who mailed back a paper ACS bypassed the citizenship question, and the nonresponse rate was only 3.8% for those filling out the ACS through a personal interview.

That disparity could be a double whammy for the 2020 census, O’Hare says. The internet will be an option for the first time, and Census Bureau officials hope more than 60% of U.S. residents will answer electronically. In addition, he says, the 500,000 fieldworkers hired for short-term duty on the decennial census are likely to be less capable of cajoling reluctant residents to answer any questions they have skipped than the smaller and better-trained workforce deployed for the ACS. In effect, says O’Hare, the Census Bureau “is pushing a mode of data collection and a methodology that results in higher nonresponse rates.”

In a March memo justifying his decision, Ross asserts that his staff found “limited empirical evidence” to support the argument that “adding a citizenship question would decrease response rates materially.” But a memo from John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, casts doubt on Ross’s assertion by detailing the negative impact of such a question on response rates. The memo was disclosed as part of the department’s response to the various law suits, and O’Hare’s analysis reinforces its message that the citizenship question represents an added burden for some respondents.

“It’s not a random sample,” Dutta-Gupta says about who is more likely to ignore the citizenship question. “The differences [in nonresponse rates] are concentrated geographically and racially. And that’s important.”

Source: Fewer people are answering a US agency’s citizenship query. That’s fueling fears for the 2020 census

USA: Documents Show Political Lobbying in Census Question About Citizenship

Not surprising. Echoes of the Conservative government’s approach to the 2011 Census/National Household Survey:

Documents released in a lawsuit attempting to block the inclusion of a question about citizenship in the 2020 census show lobbying by anti-immigration hard-liners for the question’s inclusion, and resistance on the part of some census officials to asking it.

The Kansas secretary of state, Kris W. Kobach, who has taken a strong position against illegal immigration and was appointed by President Trump to a now-defunct panel on voter fraud, had advocated the question directly with the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, according to the documents. In a July 2017 email to an aide to Mr. Ross, Mr. Kobach said that he had reached out to the secretary a few months earlier “on the direction of Steve Bannon,” then the White House chief strategist.

In an email to Mr. Ross, Mr. Kobach urged the addition of the question, saying that including undocumented immigrants in the decennial count of the United States population would, among other things, lead to the problem “that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.”

The documents were released by the Justice Department late Friday night in response to a federal lawsuit from the attorneys general of 18 states aimed at blocking the inclusion of the question, which was added to the census questionnaire in March.

The 1,332 pages released by the Commerce Department show a chorus of warnings from scientists, immigrant groups and lawmakers. They also includes letters of support from others who endorse the question, including Representative Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia.

Mr. Ross defended the addition of the question, pointing to the documents released. “I am confident that after months of review and consideration, this administrative record proves that the return of the citizenship question to the Decennial Census is the right move that will allow our country to have the most complete and accurate census information available,” he said.

The Commerce Department added in a statement that “the notion that Secretary Ross decided to reinstate the citizenship question in response to a single email” is disproved by the fact that Mr. Kobach’s note is but one of the more than 500 pages of records produced.

Many of the letters in the documents released support the legal justification for the inclusion of the question. Mr. Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was necessary to uphold Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits United States citizens from being denied the right to vote because of race.

“In order to best enforce this prohibition, an accurate enumeration of the number of citizens in America should be conducted, and the most accurate such enumeration would be one in which a question regarding citizenship were reinstated starting with the 2020 census,” Mr. Goodlatte wrote.

Arthur Gary, the general counsel in the Justice Department’s justice management division, also invoked the enforcement of that Act as reason to include the question, according to the documents.

But there were also detailed scientific arguments opposing it, according to an analysis conducted by John M. Abowd, the chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology at the United States Census Bureau, that was included in the documents. The impact of asking about citizenship would be “major potential quality and cost disruptions,” it asserted.

The research also showed that the cost of adding this question, Mr. Abowd said, would be at least an additional $27.5 million, which would cover Census Bureau personnel having to track down households that did not respond.

“We believe that $27.5 million is a conservative estimate because the other evidence cited in this report suggests that the differences between citizen and noncitizen response rates and data quality will be amplified during the 2020 census compared to historical levels,” Mr. Abowd wrote in a Jan. 19 memo.

The Census Scientific Advisory Committee, a group of academics and scientists mandated to review the census by the Congress, also strongly disagreed with the inclusion of the question. “We hold the strong opinion that including citizenship in the 2020 census would be a serious mistake which would result in a substantial lowering of the response rate,” the committee said.

“These documents make clear what we already knew — career staff at the Census Bureau warned the political leadership at the Commerce Department that the inclusion of a citizenship question would depress census response rates, increase costs and diminish the quality of census data,” said Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Ms. Gupta said that the release showed political meddling by Mr. Kobach and Mr. Bannon in the census process.

The office of Mr. Kobach did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did Mr. Bannon immediately respond.

In response to the release of the documents, Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, asked Trey Gowdy, the committee chairman, to subpoena the Commerce and Justice Departments. He said the Justice Department omitted “entire categories of requested documents.”

This spring Mr. Cummings and other committee members asked both departments for any and all conversations, analyses and documentation related to the citizenship question, including the impact it could have on census response rates and costs. They wanted to know who worked on the issue and whether anyone expressed concerns, inside or outside of government. They specifically asked the Justice Department for all communications related to how the question would help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department is reviewing the document requests it received this spring from the House, but the information it produced Friday night was for the lawsuit and unrelated to the Oversight Committee’s efforts to obtain information.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Cummings’s statement.

Republican committee members have said they support production of the documents and would vote to subpoena for more information if necessary.

The citizenship question has not been on a decennial census since 1950. It has been on the annual American Community Survey, however, since 2005, but that goes to fewer households, rather than the entire country.

The lawsuit filed in April by 18 attorneys general, six cities and the United States Conference of Mayors — led by New York — argued that the question would result in an undercount, which would not only “fatally undermine the accuracy of the 2020 census, but will jeopardize critical federal funding needed by states and localities to provide services and support for millions of residents.”

“Further,” the suit continued, “it will deprive historically marginalized immigrant communities of critical public and private resources over the next 10 years.”

A subsequent lawsuit was filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant rights groups, charging that asking the citizenship question thwarts the constitutional mandate to accurately count the United States population.

The Complicated History Of The U.S. Census Asking About Citizenship : NPR

Nice summary history (spoiler alert: squeezed out given concerns over Census length with addition of consumer and other questions):

Lawmakers are set to question the Justice Department Friday about why it requested the 2020 census to ask about citizenship. The history of using the U.S. census to ask about citizenship has many twists and turns.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Justice Department point person on civil rights heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow for what may be a tough hearing. It is about the 2020 census. The department has requested that the census form include a question about U.S. citizenship. The federal government has used the census to ask people about their citizenship before. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang explains the surprising history.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: This is a story with lots of stops and starts, so we’ll need a tour guide.

MARGO ANDERSON: My name is Margo Anderson.

WANG: She’s a history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

ANDERSON: Right. And I’m the author of “The American Census: A Social History.”

WANG: And she traces the first time all U.S. households were asked about citizenship all the way back to the census of 1820.

Was this still done on horseback at that time?

ANDERSON: Oh, certainly (laughter) – or walking.

WANG: That was the country’s fourth headcount. And census takers asked…

ANDERSON: Are there any foreigners not naturalized in your household? And if so, how many?

WANG: Anderson says she’s not sure why these questions were included.

ANDERSON: I haven’t found yet any evidence of the use of that information in terms of policies, which I think is why it simply disappeared.

WANG: By 1840, the government stops asking about foreigners who are not citizens. Fifty years pass before the topic comes up again in 1890. By this point, the federal government had been asking for decades about where people were born and where their parents were born. Anderson explains why.

ANDERSON: Well, we have lots of immigrants in the country right now. How are they doing?

WANG: So for the 1890 census, people born outside the U.S. were asked how long they’ve been in the country and whether they’ve become citizens. And census takers kept asking similar questions well into the 20th century.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “IN THE SUBURBS”)

WANG: We’re going to skip ahead to the years just before the 1960 headcount.

ANDERSON: The census officials and Congress begin to sort of say do we really still need to ask this?

WANG: The number of immigrants in the U.S. had been dropping. The list of census questions was long. And as this 1957 short film by Redbook magazine puts it…

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “IN THE SUBURBS”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) It’s a happy go-spending world reflected in the windows of the suburban shopping centers where they go to buy.

WANG: Business leaders and researchers pushed the government to ask about a different set of topics.

ANDERSON: Particularly a lot of questions about consumer goods. Do people have televisions and washing machines?

WANG: This is what squeezes out the citizenship question.

ANDERSON: Yes.

WANG: In 1970, the government starts asking about citizenship on a small survey for a sample of households. Fast-forward to today. The Trump administration has approved a new citizenship question for all households in 2020. The Justice Department says it needs data from it to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But Anderson says this citizenship question may confuse a lot of people.

ANDERSON: It’s like, why are you asking me this? Of course I’m a citizen. I was born here.

WANG: Critics say those born outside the U.S. may stay away from the census because of the question. More than two dozen states and cities are suing to remove it. Anderson sees this debate as part of the complicated census history of asking about citizenship. It’s been a series of twists and turns over 200 years. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, Washington.

via The Complicated History Of The U.S. Census Asking About Citizenship : NPR

Why Trump’s Census Change Could Hit Asian-Americans Especially Hard

Some interesting analysis of how certain groups of Asian Americans will be more affected (and the corresponding groups that overall are doing well and are unlikely to be affected, which the article does not mention):

The Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the census does not bode well for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, civil rights groups fear.

Research has already shown that the minority group is significantly undercounted in the survey, with one-fifth of Asian-Americans and one-third of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in hard-to-count census areas. This is partly due to the fact that some Asian-American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, subgroups have relatively high rates of poverty, unemployment and educational attainment, among other factors.

Experts say the question about citizenship will significantly reduce participation in the census, and Asian-American civil rights organizations are worried about how the question could affect the growing minority group.

“Given the high number of Asian immigrants, any question regarding citizenship is likely to scare the Asian community. We are very concerned that the addition of citizenship question will disproportionately cause an undercount in the Asian community,” John C. Yang, president and executive director of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, told HuffPost by email.

“The community already is fearful of the anti-immigrant rhetoric and immigration policies advanced by this administration,” Yang added. “At a minimum, the addition of this question will make it even more challenging to ensure that the community has sufficient trust in the census such that they will respond.”

Treating AAPIs as a monolith ignores how poverty and other factors contribute to undercounting in particular AAPI subgroups, according to a joint fact sheet by the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Georgetown Law’s Center On Poverty and Inequality. While it’s often assumed that AAPIs are financially well-off, reports show that Cambodian-, Hmong- and Laotian-Americans, who predominantly came to the U.S. as refugees, experience higher than average rates of poverty and lower levels of income. More than one-third of Nepalese-Americans also live in poverty.

Communities with lower educational attainment are more difficult to count, too. And Southeast Asian-Americans have some of the highest dropout rates in the country, with about 34.3 percent of Laotian-American adults lacking high school diplomas, as well as 40 percent of Hmong-American and nearly the same percentage of Cambodian-American adults. Yet about 90 percent of the general U.S. adult population finishes high school or gets a GED certificate.

Lower rates of English proficiency contribute to undercounting in the census as well. More than one-third of AAPIs have limited English proficiency, defined as a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English. And the majority of AAPIs speak a language other than English.

What’s more, much of the AAPI community in the U.S. is made up of immigrants. In fact, almost 60 percent of AAPIs were born in another country, and an estimated 1.7 million undocumented AAPI immigrants live in U.S. The concept of a census is completely foreign for many new immigrants, Yang said, which, along with the citizenship question, would further discourage many AAPIs from participating.

Increased undercounting of AAPIs could have notable repercussions, Yang noted. A report from the GW Institute of Public Policy shows that more than $800 billion of federal funding in fiscal year 2016 relied on census data. And with census data meant to determine political representation, lower participation in the survey could mean AAPI concerns go ignored while resources for hospitals, disaster relief services, health care services and more are misallocated, Yang said.

“Undercount of the Asian American Pacific Islander community will leave the community underrepresented, under-resourced, and under-protected,” he explained. “An undercount will mean that congressional districts will be allocated and drawn without an accurate understanding [of] the Asian American community.”

Already, several AAPI organizations have spoken out against the citizenship question. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) chair, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), issued a statement condemning the new measure and expressing her commitment to using the legislative process to stop its implementation.

“The census is essential for ensuring fair and accurate representation and distribution of government resources,” Chu wrote. “But by including a question on citizenship, which is not required by the Constitution, the Trump Administration is exploiting the fear of immigrant communities who are already reticent to divulge personal information to the federal government.”

Social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, along with 35 partners, sent letters to both the CAPAC and the New York Congressional Delegation to advocate against the question. Citing the cost of hiring additional staff for follow-up on unanswered census questions, the question’s lack of testing, and the concerns of immigrant communities, the federation’s executive director, Jo-Ann Yoo, called on legislators to speak out.

Yang is now encouraging members of the public to fight back and make their views known once the U.S. Census Bureau seeks public comment on the questions. He also urges people to call members of Congress to show them how important the issue is to them.

via Why Trump’s Census Change Could Hit Asian-Americans Especially Hard

Are You a U.S. Citizen? How a 2020 Census Question Could Affect States – The New York Times

Good data rich analysis:

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced that it would add a citizenship question to the decennial census in 2020, citing the need for more granular data for determining Voting Rights Act violations. Critics say that adding the question could cause some immigrants — particularly those who are not citizens — not to respond, resulting in an undercount.

There is no reliable data to estimate how many people would opt out of the census, but a panel of experts from inside the United States Census Bureau still expressed opposition to the move, in part because of concerns about accuracy.

“Just because there is not clear evidence that adding the question would harm the census accuracy, this is not evidence that it will not,” they wrote in a memo.

About 56 percent of the nation’s 44 million immigrants are not United States citizens, and an estimated 45 percent of noncitizens are undocumented. Among those who are not citizens, undocumented immigrants have the lowest rates of participation in census surveys in general, experts say.

Accurate census counts are critical for many functions, including the disbursement of billions in federal and state dollars and the distribution of congressional seats and representation in state and local governments. At least 12 states, including New York and California, have filed lawsuits or have said they plan to sue the administration over the change.

An undercount of population could affect federal funding to states.

A recent Census Bureau report found that 132 programs used decennial census or related data to distribute more than $675 billion to states in 2015. Most of the money was related to health care, education and assistance for the poor.

Top federal assistance programs distributed using census data


A significant level of nonparticipation could affect congressional seats.

Some academics have created hypothetical scenarios to show how a reduction in participation could affect the distribution of congressional seats among states, which are determined by total residents, not just citizens.


According to Maxwell Palmer, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University, if 10 percent of Hispanic noncitizens opted out, Florida could lose one congressional seat, and Montana could gain one. In an extreme case, in which 100 percent of Hispanic noncitizens did not participate, a total of seven congressional seats could be reshuffled, with three lost by California and two by Texas, Dr. Palmer said.

Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College sociologist, warned against overstating the potential effects of the citizenship question. He said that the maximum share of noncitizens who do not respond would be 20 percent, which is not enough to trigger a huge change.

“This, as the analysis shows, would only move a couple of seats,” said Dr. Beveridge, who is also president of Social Explorer, a research site that analyzes census data.

via Are You a U.S. Citizen? How a 2020 Census Question Could Affect States – The New York Times

There is nothing wrong with a census question about citizenship | The Sacramento Bee

The contrary opinion by Marc Thiessen (thankfully, the citizenship question in Canada has never been controversial and has been around for a long time):

The Trump administration is being sued over its plans to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, which California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says “is not just a bad idea – it is illegal.”

No, it’s not. There is nothing wrong with asking about citizenship. Canada asks a citizenship question on its census. So do Australia and many other U.S. allies. The U.S. government asked about citizenship for 130 years – from 1820 to 1950 – as part of the decennial “short form” census and continued to do so in the “long form” survey – distributed to 1 in 6 people – through 2000, when the long form was replaced by the annual American Community Survey. The ACS goes to about 2.6 percent of the population each year and asks about citizenship to this day.

So why are many on the left up in arms over a question that should be relatively uncontroversial? Answer: Money and power. Democrats are worried that adding a citizenship question will dampen participation in the census by illegal immigrants, reducing the total population count in the Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas where illegal immigrants are largely concentrated. Because census data is used to determine the distribution of federal funds, that could decrease the cities’ share of more than $675 billion a year in federal funding. And because census data is also used to create and apportion congressional seats, Democrats fear that if illegal immigrants don’t participate it could shift power from Democratic cities to rural communities, which tend to vote Republican.

At least, that’s Democrats’ theory. But there is no evidence that a citizenship question would dramatically impact census participation. The census is not like a telemarketing survey where people have the option of adding their names to a “do not call” list. Everyone is required by law to respond. If a household does not fill out the census form, then census workers visit that household to gather census data. If they still cannot get a household to cooperate, nonrespondents can be fined or prosecuted – though in practice they rarely are. Usually, the Census Bureau instead asks neighbors about the household in order to get as much accurate information as possible. This may add costs to the census, but it is not likely to produce inaccurate data.

Moreover, if asking about citizenship is a deterrent to participation by illegal immigrants, then what about the existing census question that asks whether respondents are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” – the only ethnic group specifically called out. Respondents are required by law to tell the government whether they are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Hispanic origin, which they are required to list (”print origin, for example, Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard, and so on”). If that does not deter the participation of many illegal immigrants, how would a question on citizenship?

There is no good reason not to answer the census, whether one is here legally or illegally. As the Census Bureau points out, “It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census or survey information that identifies an individual or business .?.?. the FBI and other government entities do not have the legal right to access this information.” Furthermore, the proposed question is about citizenship, not legal status. This question should not be a deterrent to participation for anyone.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that some illegal immigrants do decide not to participate in the 2020 Census. So what? Illegal immigrants are here illegally. If they choose to violate U.S. law yet again by refusing to participate in the census because of a perfectly legitimate question about citizenship, that’s not the U.S. government’s fault.

This is a losing issue for Democrats. They are effectively arguing that sanctuary cities should be rewarded with more federal money for interfering with the federal enforcement of our immigration laws and turning themselves into magnets for illegal immigrants. And Democrats, who claim to be deeply concerned about foreign interference in our democracy, seem to have no problem with foreign interference when it comes to noncitizens in the United States illegally affecting the distribution of seats in Congress. If Democrats want to make that argument to the American people, go for it. It will further alienate millions of voters who abandoned the Democratic Party in the 2016 election.

via There is nothing wrong with a census question about citizenship | The Sacramento Bee

The Census’s New Citizenship Question Could Hurt Communities That Are Already Undercounted | FiveThirtyEight

Good detailed and balanced analysis:

After a long career as a banker and investor, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is no doubt familiar with cost-benefit analyses. That seems to have carried over to his political work. In a memo declaring that the 2020 census would ask U.S. inhabitants whether they are U.S. citizens,1 he wrote, “I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate.” The inclusion of the question was a request of the Justice Department, which says that it needs the information to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

But Ross isn’t the only one weighing costs against benefits when it comes to the census — respondents do it as well. Demographers and civil rights groups are concerned that under a president who has called for a ban on Muslims and immigrants from certain countries, dramatically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the country and cracked down on undocumented immigrants without criminal records, a citizenship question will push more people to decide that the risks of responding accurately to the questionnaire, or responding at all, outweigh the benefits. And the groups that seem most likely to be put off from responding — immigrants, members of households with immigrants, people living in poverty, among others — are the same ones that are already at highest risk of being uncounted.

There’s a lot at stake: The census has been used for hundreds of years to determine how many U.S. House members each state will have,2 and it currently helps determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending is divvied up. “The risk that really troubles me is that there’s a big undercount and then there’s a big lack of representation,” said John Thompson, who was director of the U.S. Census Bureau until he resigned last year (the bureau is still without a director).

Many groups were already less likely than others to respond to the census. Some of the non-response trends are geographical. The rural South and the Texas-Mexico border, for example, had many areas with low response rates during the last census, in 2010, according to data from the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

But there are pockets with low response rates almost everywhere, said Steven Romalewski, director of the center’s mapping service. “Every state has them,” he said. “Most congressional districts have them. It’s urban, rural and suburban, and they are scattered throughout the country.”

That’s at least partly because there are differences in mail-in response rates among demographic groups. African-Americans and Hispanics respond at lower rates than non-Hispanic white people. Immigrants (particularly the undocumented), people who rent their homes and those living in poverty have been less likely to mail back the form.

Those are also some of the groups that have historically been undercounted. For example, young children — the group most likely to be undercounted – disproportionately live in households with parents who are young, who earn poverty wages, and who are Hispanic or African-American.

The citizenship question could exacerbate the problems of non-response and undercounting. In pre-census focus groups, respondents have expressed concerns that other government agencies will be able to access data related to immigration and that it could harm their residency status (even if they are authorized). Community groups across the country have been educating undocumented immigrants and their families about their rights, encouraging them not to let law enforcement officials into their homes. This could make it more difficult for census workers to access households. It’s not just the undocumented who are at risk of not responding or not showing up on the census. The 23 million non-citizensliving in the U.S. often live with U.S. citizens as well — if the door doesn’t open, citizens are at risk of not showing up in the census, too.

Researchers believe that a resistance to sharing any personal information and the fear that one’s information will not be secure are among the reasons that people don’t respond to the census. Lawmakers themselves, most recently Republicans, have expressed concerns about the broad nature of census questions, calling as recently as this decade to end the American Community Survey — an annual survey also conducted by the Census Bureau that does ask about citizenship status. We don’t know how much public fears and political rhetoric have affected people’s willingness to participate in the census over time, but we do know that when the bureau began spending millions of dollars on advertising campaigns to assuage those concerns (“Your answers are protected by law”), response rates went up.

There’s a tradeoff between privacy and accuracy, said Kenneth Prewitt, who was census director from 1998 to 2001. The more infringement there is on information that people view as private, the less accurate the results will be. And this close to the 2020 survey, it’s likely not only the citizenship question that puts the census at risk, Prewitt said. That the census is now mired in a national political conversation about immigration, as well as various court cases pushing to keep the question off the survey, polarizes it in a way that could hurt response rates.

We don’t know whether the addition of the citizenship question will make the data that the census collects less accurate as a whole, though census workers have heard an alarming increase in concerns around immigration and privacy in focus groups conducted in advance of 2020. We can’t know what the question may do because it hasn’t been tested in a way that follows standard scientific practice, said Terri Ann Lowenthal, who is a former staff director for the U.S. House census oversight subcommittee and now works as a consultant. In surveying, many things can change response rates and the truthfulness of responses, including the order of questions, the wording on instructions and the way it’s laid out visually. The only way to know how well a question will work is by testing it repeatedly, over a number of years, she said.

“It is somewhat puzzling, in my opinion, that Secretary Ross — who is a well-respected businessman — would agree to move forward with something that I’m sure he knows in any other setting, whether scientific or business, wouldn’t pass muster in terms of readiness,” Lowenthal said.

But even though a citizenship question hasn’t been tested for the current census (or in the current political environment), there’s good reason to believe the answers will be inaccurate for those who do fill out the form, at least among non-citizens. According to Ross’s memo, some 30 percent of non-citizen respondents on the American Community Survey are believed to give incorrect responses.

There’s no good way to fix the census if there is a problematic count — we’re stuck with it for a decade. In the late 1990s, the bureau floated plans to use statistical methods to make up for chronic undercounts of groups like kids, renters and certain minority groups. The House sued, and the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that because of the way the Census Act is written, statistical sampling can’t be used for apportionment. The census is a one-shot deal.

More than a dozen states are suing to block the citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 census. And civil rights groups say they are holding out hope that Congress, which has jurisdiction over the survey, will intervene.

In the end, as Ross seemed to hint at, the citizenship question is about tradeoffs. It may provide additional information about the number of citizens and non-citizens in the U.S., but only if people respond. Because the question hasn’t been tested, understanding how it will affect the outcome is difficult. But a chorus of experts, including people who have worked at the Census Bureau, say that there’s real cause for concern and that our representation at the federal level is at stake.

via The Census’s New Citizenship Question Could Hurt Communities That Are Already Undercounted | FiveThirtyEight

Citizenship: What the Census Tells Us

Please find below the link to the Policy Options article I did with respect to citizenship and the related deck that I will present later this week at the Metropolis Conference in Calgary (hence will not be blogging for the rest of the week).

What the census tells us about citizenship

This analysis uses Census data to examine naturalization rates with respect to gender, age, education, immigration period and category, labour force status and median income.