NEWS8 August 2018

Remove citizenship from US census, urges market research body

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US – The citizenship question should be removed from the 2020 census, according to market research industry organisation The Insights Association.

US 2010 census_crop

Including a question on citizenship could potentially deter legal or illegal immigrants from responding and thereby undermine accuracy, according to the organisation, which represents the marketing research and data analytics community in the States.

Citizenship status has not been included in a question on the decennial survey since 1950. Its inclusion was announced by the Department of Commerce in March. 

In January, six former directors of the Census Bureau warned that the addition of a question on citizenship at a late stage in the census planning cycle would put the accuracy and success of the census “at grave risk”.

In comments submitted to the Department of Commerce yesterday ( 7 August), Howard Fienberg, vice-president of advocacy at the Insights Association said: “Adding a citizenship question to the decennial census without appropriate testing introduces unknown accuracy risks due to the potential that it will deter legal or illegal immigrants from responding. Without testing and with fewer respondents, the decennial headcount likely will be less accurate, less valuable and unnecessarily expensive."

Data from the census informs multiple subsequent studies, including the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census, so any misrepresentation in the results could affect the accuracy of future surveys, Fienberg said.

“We urge the Department of Commerce and Census Bureau to rescind this decision and remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census questionnaire. That would be in the best interests of an accurate, complete and efficient decennial census.”

The public had until yesterday to share comments on the census via the Census Bureau website, with groups including the Insight Association urging individuals to submit their views on the citizenship question. There are also several lawsuits proceeding against the question’s addition, the results of which have yet to be decided.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the citizenship question, the census has also been plagued by various funding reductions and shortfalls.