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.

The Trump Appointee Behind the Move to Add a Citizenship Question to the Census

Not surprising, someone involved in redistricting (i.e., competitive advantage):

In December, the Department of Justice requested that the Census Bureau add a question to the 2020 survey that would ask respondents to reveal whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Since ProPublica first reportedthe DOJ’s letter, civil rights groups and congressional Democrats have announced their opposition, arguing that in the midst of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, the question will lead many people to opt out of the census, resulting in an inaccurate population count.

A lot is at stake. The once-a-decade population count determines how House seats are distributed and helps determine where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent.

But one question regarding the December letter remained unclear. The letter was signed by a career staffer in a division of the DOJ whose main function is handling budget and procurement matters. Who, observers wondered, was actually driving the policy change?

Emails obtained by ProPublica in response to a Freedom of Information Act request provide an answer: The letter was drafted by a Trump political appointee who is best known for his work defending Republican redistricting efforts around the country.

John Gore, who since last summer has been the acting head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, drafted the original letter to the Census Bureau, the emails show. In one email, Arthur Gary, the career official who signed the letter, noted that it was sent “at the request of leadership, working with John.”

Gore came to the Trump administration from the law firm Jones Day, where he was an appellate specialist best known for defending a range of Republican state redistricting plans that were attacked as racial gerrymandering by opponents. Gore, for example, helped defend a Virginia redistricting that was ultimately thrown out by a court which ruled that the legislators had focused too much on race.

The emails show Gore sending a draft of the census letter to Gary in early November under the subject line, “Close Hold: Draft Letter.” Gary signed and sent the letter the next month and then emailed a note to Gore confirming it was being mailed.

It’s not clear why Gore, who did not respond to a request for comment, didn’t sign the letter himself. The Justice Department press office also did not respond to requests for comment.

ProPublica previously reported that Gore wrote a filing changing the department’s position in litigation challenging Texas’ voter ID law. The Obama-era DOJ had pursued litigation claiming that the Texas statute intentionally discriminated against minority voters; the Trump administration then withdrew the claim. Gore wrote the filing largely by himself but asked career attorneys who’d long been involved in the case to sign it.

A decision on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census is expected by the end of the month and will be made by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

Separately, the Trump administration has taken a second step that suggests a philosophical commitment to including citizenship questions as part of the census. It selected as its first political appointee at the Census Bureau a longtime legislative aide to former Sen. David Vitter. The Louisiana Republican made headlines for years by repeatedly introducing controversial proposals for the census to ask about citizenship and immigration status.

Christopher Stanley, who left his job on Capitol Hill late last year, will take one of the Census Bureau’s three politically appointed positions, as the chief of congressional affairs. It’s not clear when Stanley will begin but a spokesman for the Commerce Department confirmed the selection to ProPublica. The position does not require confirmation by the Senate.

Stanley does not appear to have made public statements about the census. But he was Vitter’s legislative aide when the senator introduced a series of measures to change the census that elicited fierce opposition. Stanley worked as an aide to Vitter, first in the House and then in the Senate, for over 15 years, ultimately rising to be the senator’s legislative director.

Before the last census in 2010, Vitter led a legislative effort to get the bureau to add a question about citizenship. It failed. At the time Vitter criticized the system of congressional apportionment for being based on the count of all residents, not just U.S. citizens. “States that have large populations of illegals would be rewarded for that. Other states, including my home state of Louisiana, would be penalized,” he said at the time. The proposal was attacked by civil rights groups.

Vitter tried again in 2014. And in 2016, he introduced another amendment that would have required the census to ask about both citizenship and immigration status.

Since the U.S. Constitution was adopted, the full, once-a-decade census has always inquired about U.S. residents — or “free persons” as the original language put it — rather than citizens. At times in the past, the census inquired about citizenship, but last did so in 1950. The Census Bureau currently asks about citizenship on a much longer survey that goes to a small percentage of U.S. households.

Stanley did not return requests for comment.

Asked if Stanley’s selection signaled anything about the administration’s policy on the census, Department of Commerce spokesman James Rockas said: “We value Mr. Stanley’s many years of Capitol Hill experience. Legislative affairs aides implement policy, they do not decide it.”

Vitter’s stated reason for adding a citizenship question — to change congressional apportionment — contrasts with the December letter from the Department of Justice to the Census Bureau. That letter argues that more data on U.S. citizens is needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Source: The Trump Appointee Behind the Move to Add a Citizenship Question to the Census

Why the 2020 census shouldn’t ask about your citizenship status – Salon.com

One of the more thoughtful pieces, with valid arguments, primarily the lack of question testing and the current political climate (one of the worst decisions of the Harper government was to replace the Census with the voluntary and less accurate National Household Survey in 2011, resulting is less robust data and comparability problems with previous data):

In December 2017, the Department of Justice formally proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. This question would ostensibly help to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I am a social scientist who studies immigration. I have used census data on immigration and citizenship in my research for over two decades, and I have urged government statistical agencies before to collect more data about immigrants. But I don’t think it’s wise to collect citizenship status in the 2020 census. Doing so would not only raise the risk of collecting inaccurate data, but also reduce public confidence in the census itself.

Tracking citizenship

On the one hand, data on citizenship is valuable. In any modern democracy, statistical data is essential for informing policy debates and guiding the implementation of governmental programs. Without it, decisions would almost certainly be too easily shaped by anecdotal evidence and personal biases.

Citizenship data has been used to track political participation and inclusion of immigrant groups. Citizenship is strongly associated with access to public assistance, health care and jobs. Social scientists and policy analysts rely heavily on survey items on citizenship to understand immigrants’ well-being and their impact on host societies.

What’s more, the U.S. Census Bureau has successfully collected confidential information on citizenship status in the past. The citizenship question was first introduced in the 1870 census and was part of all censuses from 1890 through 1950. It was included in the “long” form of the census — administered to 1 in 6 households — as late as 2000. It’s also asked in the American Community Survey, a survey that Census Bureau conducts every year.

Immigrants tend to be willing survey respondents. In a 2010 study, Hispanic immigrants were more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to agree that the census is good for the Hispanic community. They were also more likely to correctly understand that the census cannot be used to determine whether a person is in the country legally, and that the bureau must keep their responses confidential.

In another study I published in 2014 with two colleagues, James Bachmeier and Frank Bean, we found that nearly all immigrants answered questions about their immigration and documentation status. These response rates are on par with or better than typical survey questions on health or income. Moreover, immigrants’ responses to these questions appeared to be fairly accurate.

Harming the data

However, the political climate surrounding immigration has changed in the last year.

Not all immigrants have been cooperative respondents in the past. Those who are more likely to be undocumented have been undercounted in past censuses and were more likely to incorrectly report themselves as U.S. citizens.

The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy may have increased mistrust among all immigrants, not just those who are undocumented. During focus group interviews conducted by the Census Bureau roughly six months into Trump’s presidency, immigrants appeared anxious and reluctant to cooperate with Census Bureau interviewers. They mentioned fears of deportation, the elimination of DACA, a “Muslim ban” and ICE raids. One respondent walked out when the questionnaire turned to the topic of citizenship, leaving the interviewer alone in his apartment. Respondents even omitted or gave false names on household rosters to avoid “registering” with the Census Bureau. Interviewers remarked that it was much easier to collect data on immigration and citizenship just a few years ago than it is now.

It’s not yet clear whether the fears seen in the focus group interviews are widespread or how such fears would affect response rates if the citizenship question were added to the 2020 census. Additionally, researchers haven’t yet worked out a way to ask the citizenship question so it’s not perceived as threatening.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to find out. A finalized questionnaire must be submitted to Congress by the end of March.

What to do in 2020

I served on the Census Advisory Board from 2008 to 2011 and have personally witnessed the time and effort it takes for the Census Bureau to develop questions for the census. Officials must pay meticulous attention to the exact question wording, response categories, ordering and questionnaire layout.

I believe adding a citizenship question without adequate testing could severely reduce participation in the 2020 census among the country’s 44 million immigrants and the additional 32 million U.S.-born people who live with them.

The social and economic consequences of a low response rate for the 2020 census would be severe. Even small errors in coverage could shift the distribution of political power and federal funds, as well as reduce the effectiveness of public health systemsand other government functions.

Perhaps even worse, high coverage error in the 2020 census could undermine the public’s trust in the census as the nation’s source of information on the size, growth and geographic distribution of the U.S. population.

This occurred a century ago, as historian Margo Anderson described in her book, “The American Census.” The 1920 census revealed dramatic shifts in population from rural to urban areas, as large waves of Eastern and Southern European immigrants settled predominantly in American cities. Congress, fearing the political ramifications of these changes, rejected the results of the 1920 census and voted not to redistribute the seatsof the House according to the most recent census data. A similar rejection of the results of the 2020 census would likely result in a constitutional crisis today.https://counter.theconversation.com/content/91036/count.gif

Citizenship data would be valuable. But the risks of poor data quality — or the erosion of public trust in the census and other governmental institutions — far outweigh the potential benefits. Given that there are other current data available on citizenship, why take unnecessary risks when the stakes are so high?

via Why the 2020 census shouldn’t ask about your citizenship status – Salon.com

A Citizenship Question on the Census May Be Bad for Your Health – The New York Times

Context matters. While having a citizenship question should be a no brainer, introducing it at a late stage during aggressive ICE immigrant round-ups, and ongoing gerrymandering and other ways to depress non-white voters, make the critiques understandable:

As the Census Bureau finalizes the questions for the 2020 census, key voices in the Trump administration are pressing for surveyors to ask one critical question: Are you a United States citizen?

Advocates of the so-called citizenship question say it is merely clerical, an effort to ascertain how many noncitizens reside in the United States. But the question would have broad ramifications, not only for the politics of redistricting that will emerge from the census but for an issue that goes beyond partisanship: public health.

The fear is that immigrants — even those in the country legally — will not participate in any government-sponsored questionnaire that could expose them, their family members or friends to deportation. But low response rates from any demographic group would undermine the validity of the next decade of health statistics and programs, health experts warn. Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of health conditions across the United States population. In turn, officials use the data to target interventions and distribute federal funding.

“Data is the lifeblood of public health; it needs to be transparent and objective,” said Edward L. Hunter, the former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Washington office and now the president of the de Beaumont Foundation, which focuses on public health. “The census will have cascading effects upon every rate, every percentage, every trend we monitor over time. It’s very unsettling for people who need to use that data.”

The debate is heating up as a critical deadline approaches: The Census Bureau says it must submit a final list of the 2020 census questions to Congress by March 31.

In a December document first reported by ProPublica, the Department of Justice argued that inquiring about citizenship status in the decennial census was critical to enforcing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which protects against racial discrimination in voting. Measuring the total number of citizens of voting age in a region is vital to understanding voting rights violations, the department argued.

On Monday, 19 Democratic and independent state attorneys general and one governor, John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, sent a 10-page letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, arguing that the change to the census could “risk an unconstitutional undercount.” The decennial census has not had a citizenship query since 1950, they said.

And, they argued, “adding a citizenship question at this late date would fatally undermine the accuracy of the 2020 census, harming the states and our residents.”

The Justice Department is standing by its request.

“The Justice Department is committed to free and fair elections for all Americans and has sought reinstatement of the citizenship question on the census to fulfill that commitment,” a Justice Department spokesman, Devin M. O’Malley, said in a statement.

Even without the citizenship question, minorities have been undercounted in the national census, with undocumented immigrants and their legal relatives among the least responsive. Amid a fiery immigration debate — including Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids nationwide — the inclusion of a citizenship inquiry could make it worse.

“It’s all about trust,” said Mr. Hunter, who earlier in his career oversaw confidentiality policy at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Health Statistics. “The government is legally bound not to reveal the identities of individuals who participate — and yet at a time like this, you would need the individual to believe that.”

When census results are released, scientists often measure the impact of a disease by comparing its prevalence to the total population. With skewed census data, public health officials may invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, may overlook one that does.

“This is completely foundational,” said Michael Fraser, the executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We take for granted that we have a really accurate understanding of who lives in this country: their ages, ethnicities, where they live.”

Dr. Fraser added, “The bottom line is, if we are handed baseline numbers that aren’t accurate, everything we do for program planning and what we do for implementation will be inadequate.”

via A Citizenship Question on the Census May Be Bad for Your Health – The New York Times

Shree Paradkar: Census vastly undercounts Indigenous population in Toronto, study says

One of the harder groups for StatsCan to count despite their ongoing efforts, with this alternative study being instructive in terms of the possible gap:

For decades, Indigenous communities have said their numbers are far higher than reported by government agencies.

Not so, according to officialdom.

“Always our studies in the past have been critiqued or undermined as not having a scientifically sound approach,” says Sara Wolfe, founding partner of Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, which caters to Indigenous mothers and babies.

“Or there’s been concerns about bias or questioning of the relevance… of the study that’s been done.”

The tables were turned recently.

The census released in October pegged Toronto’s Indigenous population at 23,065, up from the 19,270 census estimate in 2011.

Not so, says a new study that confirms what Indigenous people have been saying all along.

The study by researchers from York University and St. Michael’s Hospital, in collaboration with Indigenous agencies, was published in the British Medical Journal Open.

It says the census — that gold standard in population counting — vastly underestimated the Indigenous population in Toronto. The study’s most conservative assumption places it between 45,000 and 73,000 people, or two to four times the 2011 census estimate.

This finding has major implications, particularly in funding for health care and community services.

Statistics Canada is receptive to the study. The agency’s chief priority is accuracy and precision, said Marc Hamel, director-general of the census program.

When there are reports of discrepancies, “we review all the processes we have internally. We also try to work with these groups to better understand the way the study was conducted,” he said. “We always have to be careful when we compare results from different studies because different methodologies are being used, different concepts.”

Lead scientist Janet Smylie, from St. Michael’s Hospital, and lead author of the study Michael Rotondi, a York University professor, employed a statistical method called respondent-driven sampling, which leveraged the inherently strong social networking of Indigenous populations.

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Specifically, 20 people called “seeds” completed the survey and were given five uniquely coded coupons. They gave these to other Aboriginal people who then filled the survey, and those people gave out coupons to others in their social networks, and so on.It allowed Indigenous community members to recruit each other for the study which then reached a large sample of more than 900 adults.

“This helps better track Indigenous community members who might be homeless and otherwise unstably housed,” says Rotondi.

They partnered with Wolfe’s midwifery clinic, which led a multi-agency collaboration to plan the questions, recruit trained Indigenous interviewers and disseminate the survey that took more than an hour to complete.

The census, on the other hand, uses the concept of usual residence and is based on private dwellings.

“It doesn’t measure, for example, where people would be temporarily residing for whatever purpose, whether it be work, school or receive certain types of services,” says Hamel.

“The census is never perfect, like any study. We know we have unaccounted populations. We have measures to identify and account and to make adjustments to the population estimation programs that are used by the government to make decisions.”

The survey included a question of whether or not the respondents had completed the 2011 census.

“Even under a conservative model we were able to say only about 19 per cent (of individuals) had even completed the census,” Rotondi says.

“One of the big reasons is people don’t trust governments, long forms and mandatory surveys,” says Wolfe, who is Ojibwe from Brunswick House First Nation and was the community lead for the study.

“We might be afraid to tell someone on the phone that says they’re from the government that we’re Indigenous,” says Smylie, who is Métis. “We might purposely not want to participate. We might be opting out because we feel socially excluded or frustrated with the government. Or, it’s not on our priority list ’cause we’re too busy trying to get enough groceries on our shelf and we’re running around and didn’t even know the census was happening. Or (we’re) renting a room somewhere or couch surfing.”

These were some of the barriers the respondent-driven sampling broke down.

The impact of this study will be tremendous and long-term, the researchers say.

“It doesn’t mean that just because there are more Indigenous people everyone’s going to have to pay more taxes. It could mean if we’re counting properly (and allocating correctly) we’re paying less taxes,” said Smylie.

“This is irrefutable evidence,” said Wolfe. “There’s no way you can say the population is not this big any more.”

This is relevant because, “Indigenous people are not getting asked for input and consulted on the decisions being made… because there’s a presumption that we are not a significant or substantial portion of the population,” says Wolfe.

Why does it matter if the people accessing care are Indigenous as long as they have access to it? Two reasons: to counter ongoing racism and to redress intergenerational trauma produced by historic wrongs.

In a report titled First Peoples, Second Class Treatment, Smylie says she wrote that if you’re a First Nation person living in the province of Alberta having a heart attack, “you’re less likely to get a picture of your heart, called a coronary angiogram, and more likely to die just because you’re First Nation. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or a rural area or if you’re rich or poor.”

Residential schools, the last of which closed 20 years ago, left Indigenous people with a painful legacy. Abuses that are only just being seriously documented have left a community history of complex trauma.

“That might be something you’d need specialized services and responses,” said Smylie. “We also know that some Indigenous people benefit greatly from access to traditional healing and traditional counseling and a revitalization of Indigenous culture.”

Says Wolfe: “Everyone needs to make a concerted effort to work together to close these (health) gaps so we can have as good a chance as everyone else in society to reach our full potential.”

Source: Shree Paradkar: Census vastly undercounts Indigenous population in Toronto, study says

Why Asking About Citizenship Could Make the Census Less Accurate – The New York Times

Lynn Vavreck, a professor of political science at U.C.L.A. on the US Census citizenship question along with a study that shows how distrust plays out in different states, reflecting the particular political climate:

It’s a question that used to be on the national census every decade:whether you were a citizen of the United States.

But the Justice Department’s request to return it to the 2020 census for all respondents has unsettled demographic experts as well as advocates of voting rights and immigrants, who say it could lead Hispanic people to avoid being counted. Are they overreacting to a simple question?

We can’t say at this point what the electoral consequences would be, but it’s likely to lead to undercounting. The Census Bureau itself estimates that the 2010 census failed to find 1.5 percent of the Hispanic population. Research conducted that year suggests that Hispanic trust in the census may have been undermined. And from the start of his candidacy up through his reported vulgar remarks last week about Haiti and African countries, President Trump has been fanning anti-immigrant sentiment nationwide.

The Justice Department says it wants to add the question to aid its defense of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (which prevents the dilution of minority populations so their power cannot be weakened).

Supporters of adding the question say it shouldn’t be a problem because the citizenship question has since 2000 been asked on a smaller, recurring census-sponsored survey, the American Community Survey, and because the anonymity protections are strong. But the trouble is that today, everything even remotely political has become a battle over what it means to be an American.

Responding to both the census and the A.C.S. is the law of the land — you must do it or you could be fined. The data collected determines how a lot of money is allocated, as well as the allocation of House seats (and therefore Electoral College votes).

The more people who fail to respond, the more concern there is that we are missing some groups of people more than others, and that the failure to return the form among these group members is not random.

The government dedicates tremendous resources to reminding people to return their census form and even sends people to the doors of households from which no form has been filed. Mostly, it gets results. But if the reason for not filling it out is distrust of government, additional efforts at compliance by government might fall flat.

For the 2010 census, the Spanish-language television network Telemundo sought to improve census participation by writing a story line into one of its most popular telenovelas, “Más Sabe el Diablo.” In it, the character Perla meets a Latino census worker at her father’s empanada stand and is encouraged to apply for a job with the census. The plot shows Perla being trained and learning about why the census asks the questions it does and how it safeguards confidentiality. The idea was that a popular character on a TV show could do more to assuage the fears of a community than the government could.

Matthew Trujillo, currently at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Elizabeth Paluck, a Princeton University psychologist and recent MacArthur Award winner, studied the network’s efforts. Mr. Trujillo and Ms. Paluckasked 121 Spanish-speaking Latino adults across three states to watch either a four-minute clip from “Más Sabe” that showed Perla talking about the importance of completing the census or one that included Perla talking only about family. One of the states was Arizona, which had just passed a law requiring police officers, in the course of an unrelated investigation, to investigate a “reasonable suspicion” that a person was in the country illegally.

Subjects in the experiment completed a survey before and after watching one of the clips. (Which one they watched was determined at random.) Upon leaving the lab, they were able to take a flier about the census and choose either a generic “Latino Pride” or census-specific “Be Counted” sticker.

The results of the test showed that people who saw the census story line were more likely to have positive attitudes toward the government generally — unless they lived in Arizona.Latino residents there, under threat from the newly passed law, were not moved by Perla’s story line.

The study also revealed that, on average, seeing Perla’s experience with the census made people, including those in Arizona, more aware of it. They were also more curious: 86 percent took a flier about the census as they left, compared with 69 percent of people who saw the other clip. Finally, the census clip prompted more people to take and wear the “Be Counted” sticker as they left — if they lived in Texas or New Jersey. In Arizona, people in both groups avoided the “Latino Pride” sticker.

The results suggest that if Latinos in the United States feel generally threatened by the Trump administration, it may be hard to persuade them to overcome their negative views of government and return the 2020 census.

California officials are so worried about Latino nonparticipation — and the potential loss of a seat in Congress and billions of federal dollars — that they are discussing aggressive multilingual advertising campaigns.

In the 2010 Telemundo study, it mattered a bit how much people liked Perla as a character. This is both good news and bad news for the Census Bureau as it faces 2020. With TV content booming, there is no shortage of popular characters who could be seen talking about the census.

On the other hand, today’s networks may be reluctant to participate the way Telemundo did in 2010. Given the current climate, even they may be unsure of the government’s intentions, particularly as it relates to those who are undocumented or whose national origin may not be in keeping with the president’s view of being American.

via Why Asking About Citizenship Could Make the Census Less Accurate – The New York Times

Trump’s revenge on California: The Census – POLITICO

The US Census and the fear regarding the possible  impact of the addition of a citizenship question on California and other states:

Fear is rising among Democrats over the prospect that President Donald Trump’s hard line on immigration might ultimately cost California a seat in Congress during the upcoming round of reapportionment.

Top Democrats here are increasingly worried the administration’s restrictive policies — and the potential inclusion of a question about citizenship on the next U.S. census — could scare whole swaths of California’s large immigrant population away from participating in the decennial count, resulting in an undercount that could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade and, perhaps, the loss of one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The fears are well-founded: According to the population formula used by Congress to distribute House seats every 10 years, California is currently on the bubble in 2020, on the verge of losing a seat for the first time in its history.

California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, on Wednesday proposed spending more than $40 million on the state’s own census-related outreach efforts to avoid that fate.

“There’s a lot of fear” about the census count, said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., the voter data firm used by both Republicans and Democrats in California. “The state is starting to get together resources, because it does have an actual direct impact … on state revenues if we have a severe undercount.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told POLITICO the Trump administration’s management of the census could have “devastating effects” on his state.

“The citizenship question is just the latest red flag — maybe one of the biggest — but just the latest red flag,” Padilla said.

Angst about the 2020 census took hold nationally long before the Justice Department urged the U.S. Census Bureau last month to ask people about their citizenship, a request first reported by ProPublica. The bureau has been hampered by management questions and funding shortages that voting-rights advocates fear could hinder efforts to reach immigrants and other hard-to-count groups.

Those populations are especially prevalent in California. And even before Trump’s latest broadside at immigrant communities — asking why the United States should admit people from “shithole countries” — Democrats and voting-rights advocates warned that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration could chill participation.

“It’s already a toxic environment coming forward from D.C.,” said Daniel Zingale, of the nonpartisan advocacy group The California Endowment. “When you add up all of these things — the abandonment of competent leadership, the proposed citizenship question, the hostile environment toward a state like ours and our diverse population, it is perceived here as a less than act of good faith coming from Washington, D.C.”

Zingale added, “I think Californians have never felt less represented in the national capital than we’re feeling right now.”

According to a study last month by Virginia-based Election Data Services, California could come “very close” to losing a congressional seat following the 2020 census regardless of immigrant participation in the count, a result of the state’s flattening population growth.

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas could all gain seats, according to the study, while eight or nine states, including New York, Illinois and West Virginia, could each lose one.

Yet uncertainty about demographic changes and the Trump administration’s handling of the census continues to cloud those projections. Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, cautioned in a prepared statement that “the change in administration and the lack of a Census Director could have a profound impact on how well the 2020 Census is conducted, and therefore the counts that are available for apportionment.”

The prospect of losing a congressional seat is a familiar predicament in Rust Belt states. But it’s unheard of in California, which has added 42 House seats since 1920 due to nearly nonstop population growth. In such a solidly blue state, the loss of a seat would have a disproportionate impact on the Democratic Party.

“If millions of non-citizens refuse to participate in the US Census, the Democrats will take [a] massive political beating,” Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide, wrote in the Fox & Hounds political blog last week. “That’s because electoral districts must be drawn based on population. The non-citizen population resides in heavily Democratic areas; if they are not counted, those areas will not have sufficient population to support Democratic congressional and legislative districts, especially in the big cities.”

Garry South, a longtime Democratic strategist, accused the White House of “trying to turn [the census] into essentially a gerrymandering process.”

The Trump administration has not yet moved to add a citizenship question to the census. And many Republicans, who have long called for its inclusion, downplayed concerns about a significant undercount in California or any other state.

Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and member of the Republican National Committee, said that “by the time we have to get closer to actually performing [the census] … this is the type of thing where there’s a legion of bureaucrats who are tasked with doing this” and “it gets done somehow.”

In a state where Democrats control every statewide office and overwhelming majorities in the Legislature, Dhillon said Democrats can only blame themselves if California loses a House seat. More people would come to California or stay here, she said, if taxes and other regulatory burdens were not so high.

Taking aim at one liberal firebrand, Dhillon said, “My only request is if we end up losing a seat, if it could be taken from Maxine Waters’ congressional district.”

The results of the 2020 census on California’s congressional representation (which could also mean the loss of a vote in the Electoral College) will not be felt until after the next presidential election — an eternity in politics. But California politicians are acutely aware of the significance of the count, having been stung by the census before.

Following the 1990 census, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that a higher undercount in California than in other states — with difficulty counting non-white people, young people and renters, among others — “likely cost California one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and at least $2 billion in federal funds during the 1990s.”

Ten years later, the state undertook a more aggressive outreach effort of its own. In an effort similar to what California Democrats are contemplating today, the state employed local organizations to promote the census in their communities and financed a multilingual, multimedia advertising campaign.

 

USA: Adding Citizenship Question Risks ‘Bad Count’ For 2020 Census, Experts Warn

The best analysis and description I have seen regarding the concerns (non-issue in Canadian Census):

Many census experts say adding a citizenship question could throw a wrench into an already-complicated project.

“It certainly raises the level of risk of getting a bad count or a count that doesn’t that fairly represent everyone,” says John Thompson, a former Census Bureau director who left the agency last year.

Asking about citizenship is not new to the census. Census takers first asked about it in 1820 to tally up the number of “foreigners not naturalized.” While the topic has been included in questionnaires for smaller Census Bureau surveys, the last time all U.S. households were asked about it was in 1950, when the questionnaire included “If foreign born, is the person naturalized?

Over the years, Republican lawmakers in Congress have introduced proposals calling for citizenship questions to reappear on census questionnaires, including former Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Some experts fear, however, that reintroducing a citizenship question to all census participants in 2020 could discourage people from participating at a time of growing distrust in sharing personal information with the government.

In a recent memo written by Census Bureau staffers, researchers said that survey takers conducting field tests last year noticed a “new phenomenon” of increased fear among immigrant participants, many of whom referenced concerns about the “Muslim ban” and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Respondents reported being told by community leaders not to open the door without a warrant signed by a judge,” the researchers wrote in the memo, adding that they saw “respondents falsifying names, dates of birth, and other information on household rosters.”

A ‘chilling effect’?

Democratic lawmakers say they’re worried that a citizenship question would dampen census participation among not only non-citizen immigrants but also U.S. citizens from mixed-status families, who may worry about putting immigrant relatives without legal status at risk if they answer the government’s questions.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, has received a letter from a group of Democratic senators calling the Justice Department’s request “deeply troubling.” The signers include Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and two members of the Senate committee with oversight of the Census Bureau — Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

“This chilling effect could lead to broad inaccuracies across the board, from how congressional districts are drawn to how government funds are distributed,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Commerce Department declined to comment on the letter.

Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any data identifying an individual. But federal agencies and researchers can request census data on specific population groups.

“As we learn more and more about the ability to combine data from diverse sources, assuring protection of identities is known to be a very difficult task,” says Robert Groves, who served as the Census Bureau’s director under President Barack Obama until 2012.

These privacy concerns could raise costs for the Census Bureau, which sends census takers to visit households that do not initially respond to questionnaires. The Government Accountability Office has described this follow-up work the bureau’s “largest and most costly field operation.” For the 2010 census, it cost more than $2 billion in today’s dollars to visit around 50 million addresses, according to a recent GAO report.

A case for better data?

Many civil rights advocates are questioning the Justice Department’s reasoning for requesting a citizenship question.

Since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, the federal government has enforced the law’s Section 2 protections against racial discrimination in voting using estimates of the number of voting-age citizens in the U.S. Those estimates have been based on data from either a small sample group of census participants who completed the so-called “long-form” questionnaire or, as in recent years, from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is sent every year to about one in 38 households.

“As I know from my prior experience as the chief government enforcer of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department has never needed to add this new question to the decennial census to enforce the Voting Rights Act before,” Vanita Gupta, who served in the Justice Department under President Obama and is now the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, writes in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Michael Li, a voting rights attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, adds: “None of the civil rights groups that routinely bring Section 2 claims around the country have been hankering for this change.”

Still, in its letter to the Census Bureau, the Justice Department argues that citizenship data collected through the census, which is conducted with every household in the U.S., would be more comprehensive than the data from the American Community Survey’s smaller sample of participants.

“I think the Justice Department is right in saying that they need accurate small-area statistics for certain voting rights cases, especially on citizenship,” says Thompson, a former Census Bureau director.

But he adds that he finds it “strange” that the Justice Department’s request did not acknowledge the potential risks from adding a citizenship question.

“It could very well introduce a large undercount of the non-citizen population, but I don’t think anyone knows that,” Thompson says. “But if I were making decisions, before I would put it on the census, I would want to know that.”

Asked if there’s any opportunity to know that at this point through research, he replied: “I don’t think so.”

There are more than two years until the next Census Day, which is scheduled for April 1, 2020. But the bureau faces a strict timeline until then to prepare for the count. It must submit all of the 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of March, the same month it is set to collect responses in Rhode Island’s Providence County in the last scheduled field test of how the 2020 census will be conducted.

If the Census Bureau does not include a citizenship question in its upcoming report to Congress, federal law does give Secretary Ross some wiggle room. Before the upcoming headcount begins, he can submit a separate report to add the question if he “finds new circumstances exist which necessitate” the change.

Source: Adding Citizenship Question Risks ‘Bad Count’ For 2020 Census, Experts Warn

The Trump administration pushes for a change that could derail the census – The Washington Post

Hard for a Canadian to understand what the fuss is about as citizenship has been a regular question on the Canadian Census for some time (although I do appreciate concerns about it being a last minute addition without testing):

PERHAPS NO institution is more important to the functioning of American democracy than the census, the once-a-decade count of the U.S. population that determines congressional representation — and where billions in federal dollars will be spent. Yet both the GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration have hobbled the 2020 Census effort, which is entering its crucial final stages. Lawmakers have underfunded the Census Bureau, the White House has mismanaged the agency, and now the Justice Department is pushing for a change that could skew the count in Republicans’ favor.

Investigative reporting organization ProPublica disclosed last week that a Justice Department official formally asked the Census Bureau to add a question to the 2020 Census. Adding any question at this stage would be dicey, given that the bureau often runs extensive field tests before fiddling with its forms, ensuring that last-minute changes do not throw off its counting efforts. Worse, the Justice Department requested that the bureau inquire about people’s citizenship status. This threatens to sabotage the 2020 count.

Asking about citizenship status would drive down response rates. Since its inception, the census has not only counted voters; it has taken a precise snapshot of everyone in the country. This helps government agencies to direct scarce dollars, and businesses to guide investment decisions. It is also crucial for doling out congressional representation. As the Supreme Court recently underscored, the Constitution requires that congressional seats be apportioned to states according to their total populations, not only their voting populations. Asking about citizenship status would deter undocumented people — or even legal immigrants who fear how far the Trump administration’s crackdown on foreigners will extend — from returning census forms. Many states — particularly blue states — could end up shortchanged.

The bureau’s charge to count everyone does not change when fewer people fill out their census forms. In that circumstance, the federal government would have to send out census takers to knock on doors and talk to neighbors. Costs would rise substantially, even for a potentially less accurate count. Congress’s shortsighted underfunding of the bureau has, perversely, already resulted in cost overruns, as investments in new techniques and technology were not made. Adding another challenge for the bureau to overcome could require lawmakers to pony up even more last-minute cash to save the count.

The Justice Department argues that it would be helpful in voting-rights cases to have reliable and accurate information on the voting-eligible population that extends far down into states and localities, collected simultaneously with other census statistics. Yet the department has relied on other, separately gathered census information about the voting-eligible population over the past decade. More exact data collected along with the rest of the decennial census would no doubt be helpful to Justice Department lawyers, but that interest is not as substantial as the threat that asking about citizenship status poses to the integrity of the count.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross should refuse to add a citizenship status question to the 2020 Census. If he does not, Congress should reject the change.

via The Trump administration pushes for a change that could derail the census – The Washington Post