Why a 2020 Census citizenship question is a loser for Texans

/, Child Well-Being, Economic Opportunity, KIDS COUNT/Why a 2020 Census citizenship question is a loser for Texans

This post was written by Economic Opportunity Intern Danielle Zaragoza.

All Texans deserve representation in Congress and access to well-funded education, transportation, and other government services. Asking people’s citizenship status as part of the 2020 Census would put Texans at risk for an undercount of the state’s population, which could cause Texans to lose Congressional representation and give up important community investments. Recently, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlighted how an undercount of children on the 2020 Census could further harm our youth.

Take action – tell the Census Bureau not to include a citizenship status question

The decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form sacrifices the integrity, fairness, and accuracy of the count. But there is still time to oppose the citizenship question on the Census and have it removed. The U.S Census Bureau has invited public comments on this issue. You can challenge the decision to include a citizenship question by contacting the Census Bureau here – the deadline is August 7, 2018.

Why does the Census matter?

Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country. Getting an accurate Census count is important, as Census data determines political representation in Congress and the amount of federal funding for things like public education, transportation, housing, and health care.

Because of the rapid growth in the Texas population in the last decade, Texas is poised to gain up to three new congressional representatives and millions of dollars in federal funds allocated to our state.[1] However, the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census could prove to be a barrier to obtaining this new representation and funding. Many Texans may fear filling out the Census accurately because of the climate of fear caused by anti-immigrant rhetoric. Read more about the importance of getting an accurate count on the 2020 Census.

The misguided decision to add a citizenship question

On March 26, 2018, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that he would direct the Census Bureau to ask the citizenship status of every person in the United States on the 2020 Census form.

This citizenship question was added to the 2020 Census form very late in the Census planning process, and the question itself is untested.[2] There is usually a multi-year process for suggesting and testing new questions,[3] and failure to test any Census question will result in more statistical uncertainty. It is the responsibility and the burden of the Commerce Department to demonstrate that changes to existing questions and the addition of new ones will not create harm and that it will increase the completeness and accuracy of the survey – it is not the responsibility of outside groups to ensure this.[4] The untested citizenship question on the Census could jeopardize the accuracy of the data, and thus could jeopardize the millions of dollars and political representation that is on the line for Texans.

Not only is the citizenship question untested, it will prove to be expensive: the 2010 Census cost $13 billion to administer and produce.[5] The 2020 will be even more costly, and the citizenship question driving down the numbers of responses may raise the price even more. For each percentage point of non-responsiveness, the Bureau is expected to spend approximately $55 million in an attempt to recover the missing data.[6] Non-responsiveness and undercounting is already a major issue in Texas, where young children, people of color, and people living in rural areas are more likely to be undercounted than others.[7]

The most insidious effect of the citizenship question will be the non-responses that result. Past research suggests that the citizenship question discourages not only undocumented immigrants, but also those who live with undocumented immigrants from responding.[8] This is especially detrimental to the mission of the Census because this will cause certain U.S citizens to fear accurately filling out the Census. For example, most kids in immigrant families are citizens.[9] This means that there will likely be both citizens and non-citizens that will go uncounted on the Census due to fear for their immigrant families. The Census Bureau is not legally allowed to share any of the information it collects with any other government agency.[10] Nonetheless, the inhibiting effect of a citizenship question would probably be even greater today than in the past due to increasingly hostile anti-immigrant policies. Because Texas is home to many immigrant families, the burden of a citizenship-question related undercount may fall disproportionately on Texas.[11]

The addition of the citizenship question hamstrings the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct an accurate Census. There have been several lawsuits filed by 18 attorneys general from states across the U.S that argue that the citizenship question on the Census will result in lowered response rates and inaccurate population data.[12] Additionally, the past six directors of the U.S Census Bureau from both Democratic and Republican administrations have written a group letter to the Commerce Department voicing their concern over adding a citizenship question stating, “We strongly believe that adding an untested question on citizenship status at this late point in the decennial planning process would put the accuracy of the enumeration and success of the Census in all communities at grave risk.” These former Census Bureau directors have all agreed that the Census is supposed to count all people living in the country, regardless of citizenship status. In addition to this longstanding agreement, the Census Bureau already counts the number of citizens and non-citizens living in the country through the American Community Survey – making the citizenship question on the 2020 Census dangerous and ineffective.

What can we do?

The Census is supposed to count every person in the United States – regardless of their citizenship status. Every person living in Texas should be counted by the 2020 Census, including immigrant families. Texas should embrace the unique demographics of our state and engage immigrants as allies to make all of our voices heard to get the funding and representation that all Texans deserve. The decision to include the citizenship question sacrifices the integrity, fairness, and accuracy of the Census. But, there is still time to oppose the citizenship question on the Census and have it removed. The U.S Census Bureau has invited public comments on this issue. You can challenge the decision to include a citizenship question by contacting the Census Bureau here – the deadline is August 7, 2018.

[1] Raley, R. & Adams, S. Citizenship Question on Census is Wasteful and Harms Texans. UT News, Texas Perspectives. April 13, 2018. https://news.utexas.edu/2018/04/13/citizenship-question-on-census-is-wasteful-and-harms-texans

[2] Vargas, A. 2020 Census Program Update: Discussant Presentation. NALEO Educational Fund presentation. June 14, 2018https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/vargas-discussant-remarks-2020-census-061418.pdf

[3] Pritzker, P. & Gutierrez, C. U.S Census Is Not About Citizenship. Bloomberg News. April 4, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-04/u-s-census-is-not-about-citizenship

[4] Pritzker, P. & Gutierrez, C. U.S Census Is Not About Citizenship. Bloomberg News. April 4, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-04/u-s-census-is-not-about-citizenship

[5] Raley, R. & Adams, S. Citizenship Question on Census is Wasteful and Harms Texans. UT News, Texas Perspectives. April 13, 2018. https://news.utexas.edu/2018/04/13/citizenship-question-on-census-is-wasteful-and-harms-texans

[6] Pritzker, P. & Gutierrez, C. U.S Census Is Not About Citizenship. Bloomberg News. April 4, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-04/u-s-census-is-not-about-citizenship

[7] Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2018 Kids Count Data Book State Trends in Child Well-Being. June 2018. http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2018kidscountdatabook-2018.pdf

[8] Sherman, A. Citizenship Question Jeopardizes Census Accuracy, Undermines Funding Progress. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. March 29, 2018. https://www.cbpp.org/blog/citizenship-question-jeopardizes-census-accuracy-undermines-funding-progress

[9] Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kids Count Data Center. Chart on Children in Immigrant Families who are U.S Citizens. January 2018. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/5921-children-in-immigrant-families-who-are-us-citizens#detailed/1/any/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/any/12547,12548

[10] United States Census Bureau. Privacy and Confidentiality. https://www.census.gov/history/www/reference/privacy_confidentiality/

[11] Vargas, A. 2020 Census Program Update: Discussant Presentation. NALEO Educational Fund presentation. June 14, 2018. https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/vargas-discussant-remarks-2020-census-061418.pdf

[12] Thompson, C. Update: A citizenship question on the 2020 census? Here’s what you need to know. Updated April 3, 2018. http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-nws-citizenship-census-5-things-20180329-story.html

 

At the Center for Public Policy Priorities, we believe in a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We envision a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure. We want the best Texas - a proud state that sets the bar nationally by expanding opportunity for all. CPPP is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.

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