Census Bureau Studies How To More Accurately Count Race, Ethnicity

Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 02:56 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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As it prepares for the next decennial count in 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau is reviewing ways to improve how a more diverse population is counted, as well as how to do it in a more cost-effective manner.

In an effort to improve the accuracy of its race and ethnicity data, the Census Bureau is reviewing the questions it asks to determine an individual's racial classification, particularly for members of minority groups.

As the nation becomes more diverse, more people are identifying themselves as "some other race" on the census forms. In the 2010 Census, slightly more than 6 percent of respondents selected this category.

According to The New York Times, of the Hispanics who selected a race on their 2010 forms, 47.4 percent reported "white" while 2.1 reported percent "black."

The 2010 Census form, for example, included only two questions about race.

Individuals had to choose whether they identified as Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin and then they were asked to select from 15 options that composed five race categories — white, black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

Until 2013, the Census Bureau included the word "Negro" as part of its questionnaire.

The Census Bureau may also be forced to change who is counted in the next census. In June, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill that would require the Census Bureau include questions about citizenship and immigration status and would prevent states from including illegal immigrants as part of their population.

The appropriations bill remains on the Senate's pending calendar.

Vitter, a Republican, said his amendment was a "a necessary step to get accurate data about each state" and to prevent states from gaining extra congressional seats as a result of counting illegal immigrants as residents. Vitter's amendment would cut off funding if these questions are not part of the next count.


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