Civil Rights Groups Calling on Census Bureau To Be Fair and Accurate

U.S. CENSUS BUREAU LOGOConcern over an accurate depiction of the diverse populations in the U.S. is bringing together different civil rights organizations to form recommendations for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census. The goal: To assure people of color are counted and identified accurately.

John Thompson, director of the US Census Bureau, said in a statement: “In our diverse society, a growing number of people find the current race and ethnic categories confusing, or they wish to see their own specific group reflected on the census.”

The main concern is whether or not the census will be able to accurately identify people with  the questions they provide. The data the census collects determines funds allocated to communities. The U.S. Census decisions on the design, methodology and content of the census affect how people respond to the questions.

“The Census Bureau must ensure that any changes to these questions do not diminish the quality and accuracy of data used for civil rights purposes,” said the report Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multiethnic America, prepared by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Officials) Education Fund.

The report also says that the census should aim to improve those data points to maintain the usefulness of the statistics for implementing and enforcing civil rights laws.

Leaders of Black, Asian-American, Hispanic and Arab-American groups met at a briefing on Monday and called for more government testing of revised questions that affects minorities, according to Al Jazeera America.

“Ensuring a fair and accurate census is a top priority,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

The 2010 census resulted in 6.2 percent of respondents choosing “some other race,” according to the Pew Research Center. Most of the people choosing “some other race” are Hispanic. Rosalind Gold, senior director with National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told NBC News that 18 million Hispanics chose “other” in the 2010 Census.

“We want to know who those ‘others’ are,” Gold said.

Census Bureau officials plan to meet with Hispanic advocacy groups to help them create the best potential changes to the questionnaire. Next year, the bureau will test out the combined race and ethnicity questions on its Current Population survey and on the American Community survey the following year.

In order for the questionnaire to be changed, it must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which handles race and ethnicity categories. Proposed topics must be submitted by 2017 and then the questions are due to Congress for approval the next year.

Back to top