Opposing a Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census

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At a Glance

CLC urges removal of the late addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census because of its likely effects on response rates to the survey, which will impact representation. 

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The Latest

Following a request made by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced in March that the 2020 U.S. Census will include a question regarding citizenship. The DOJ claims that the data from this question will help to better enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and provide more accurate and in-depth information...

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About this Action

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, every ten years the United States conducts a Census, counting the country’s entire population. Among its many other uses, the Census influences how governments and agencies should allocate resources among communities, determines how to apportion the number of seats each state gets in the U.S. House, and dictates the redrawing district lines to reflect shifts in populations and ensure fair political representation of all communities.

In December 2017, only months before the finalization of the questions for the 2020 Census, the Department of Justice made an unprecedented request to add an unnecessary question about citizenship status. By the Census Bureau’s own determinations, minority groups and foreign-born populations are more likely to be undercounted than other populations. Adding a question about citizenship status to the form will only aggravate the problem by making it less likely that forms will be returned, according to members of the affected communities, voting rights experts, and former Census Bureau officials. Indeed, the Census Bureau’s internal analysis of the proposal found that the question would be “very costly” and “harm the quality of the census count.” It also found that it would not gather reliable citizenship data and that more accurate citizenship information is already available from other sources.

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