Comment on 2020 Census Federal Register Notice

On August 7, IWPR President and CEO Heidi Hartmann submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the proposal to include an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census:

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) writes to express its concern over proposed changes to the 2020 Census. IWPR conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.

IWPR relies on accurate and timely data from the federal statistical agencies, including the Census Bureau, for research across our program areas. A comprehensive, accurate decennial Census provides the primary source of information on the U.S. population and is the foundation on which many other data are based for gauging coverage, constructing population weights, and providing other inputs across the federal statistical system. As a result, we share a profound commitment with other census stakeholders to ensuring full public participation in the decennial Census. We not only rely directly on the decennial Census itself in our work, but we also rely on all the other federal and private data systems that use the decennial Census to ensure the accuracy of their data collection, sampling frames, population weights, and so on.

We are concerned that including an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census will discourage participation in the decennial Census—especially among vulnerable, hard-to-count populations. Asking households to enumerate their members by an untested question designed to collect citizenship status is very likely to be perceived as a risk by many respondents, even those in the U.S. with proper visas/documentation, and will certainly increase the burden of response, suppress response rates, and reduce overall data quality. These negative outcomes are more likely to occur in urban areas that attract a greater number of single mothers (who give birth to majority of first-time births), immigrants, and racial minorities, and other vulnerable minorities, for example adherents of the muslin religions. The impact will be quite large when one considers that many families have members of different citizenship statuses.

Read the full comment on IWPR.org.

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