Episode
April 5, 2017

US Census 2020: The importance of being counted

Are there political implications to declaring one's race and immigration status?
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Right now, the United States Census Bureau is finalising what questions will be included in the 2020 Census, and some census experts fear what is or isn’t being asked will have major political implications.

The population survey is a constitutional mandate and is meant to ensure fair representation in government. The data collected is also used to help government agencies decide how and where to spend federal funding.  

Although respondents are already questioned about their citizenship, the Trump administration requested the Census Bureau to ask specifically about immigration status. Some census experts say that is a bad idea and could discourage people from answering the survey, resulting in undercounting and the redrawing of legislative district borders.

Last month, the Census Bureau announced it will not ask people about their sexual orientation or gender identity on the 2020 survey despite several government agencies requesting it do so. The announcement brought scathing criticism from the LGBT community. Many saw it as a slap in the face by the Trump administration.

The LGBT community isn’t the first minority group to be left out of the United States’ official population tally. Arab Americans, particularly those of Middle Eastern and North Africa or “MENA” descent, have never been included. In the past, people who fit that category were forced to check “white” or “other”. But this year, the census may add a new MENA category under race.  It is a welcome addition for those who say they’ve felt the sting of exclusion. Others are fearful the label will only open them up to government scrutiny.

We’ll take a closer look at the US 2020 Census and the importance of being counted.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Maya Berry @iMayaBerry
Executive Director, Arab American Institute
aaiusa.org

Kenneth Prewitt
Former Director, US Census Bureau

Jose Plaza @plaza_j
President, Latino GLBT History Project
latinoglbthistory.org

Ben Casselman @bencasselman
Senior editor, FiveThirtyEight
fivethirtyeight.com

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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