Some Critical Thoughts on the Census Bureau’s Proposals to Change the Race and Hispanic Questions

Some Critical Thoughts on the Census Bureau’s Proposals to Change the Race and Hispanic Questions

National Institute for Latino Policy, Inc.

Nancy López, Guest Commentator and Associate Professor of Sociology
University of New Mexico

As a sociologist of racial, ethnic and gender stratification, I applaud the Census Bureau’s ongoing efforts to examine how we can collect race and ethnicity data that address our increasingly complex and changing demographics for generations to come. Among the key recommendations of their 2010 Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE) Report is a call for further testing of the combined race and Hispanic origin question format.

Accordingly, the Census will continue testing questionnaire formats that include Hispanic as a racial category (the first and only time that a specific Hispanic origin group was included in the U.S. Census was in 1930 when “Mexican” was included as a racial group). Including Hispanic as a racial category is a significant departure from current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines that require that Hispanic Origin (ethnicity) is asked as a separate question from Race (racial status). It is important to note that since 2000, individuals may mark one or more race (but only one Hispanic ethnicity).

While the Census engages in further testing and refinement of questionnaire formats for race and ethnicity data collection, it is important that we consider why we collect and analyze race and ethnicity data in the first place: the focus is to assess our progress in Civil Rights enforcement. Data collection on race and ethnicity is used by federal, state and local agencies to monitor discrimination and segregation in housing (Fair Housing Act), labor market participation (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), political participation (Voting Rights Act, Redistricting), educational attainment (Department of Education), health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and criminal Justice (Department of Justice), among other policy areas…

Read the entire commentary here.

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