October 13, 2019

The Manufactured Census Controversy

“Should the U.S. Census Bureau know how many U.S. citizens are living in the country? Most people support the idea that it’s a reasonable question for the government to ask, which is why the census has asked it in one form or another since 1820. The question has migrated across various Census Bureau forms; the 1960 census didn’t include a citizenship question, for example, but instead asked about place of birth. The citizenship question was included on the long-form census (which is sent to a smaller number of households than the short form) from 1970-2000; the long form was eliminated in 2010. But the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS) has asked about citizenship every year.

Why? As the U.S. Census Bureau notes, “Agencies and policymakers use our published statistics to set and evaluate immigration policies and laws, understand the experience of different immigrant groups, and enforce laws, policies, and regulations against discrimination based on national origin. These statistics also help tailor services to accommodate cultural differences.”

As well, census data serves as the basis for drawing congressional districts and for the allocation of federal funds. And it is used to ensure fair and proper enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

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