June Kronholtz, who covers the 2010 Census for The Wall Street Journal, just reported on long-term Rep. Charlie Rangel’s latest wrangling (okay, it’s Monday, we want to be funny and use puns to keep you on your toes):
Race and ethnicity already are complicated questions in the decennial census. Now, Rep. Charles Rangel and a fellow New York Democrat want to make them even more complex.
Question 8 in the 2010 census form asks if the person being counted is “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” and, if so, from where. That person has a choice of four check boxes:
–Yes, he or she is Mexican, Mexican American or Chicano
–Yes, he or she is Puerto Rican
–Yes, he or she is Cuban or
–Yes, he or she is “another,” and is asked to fill in a blank.
The form offers the prompt: “for example, Argentinean, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard, and so on.”
Rangel, who represents a district with a big Dominican population, has introduced HR 1504 that would require the Census Bureau to offer a separate check box for Dominican-Americans. Similarly, Rep. Yvette Clark (D., N.Y.), who is Caribbean-American, has introduced HR 2071 that would require a check box for “Caribbean extraction or descent.”
The 2010 census forms already have gone to the printer, so there’s no chance of a change this time around. But Terri Ann Lowenthal, who writes a census newsletter, says both bills are likely to figure into the discussion about the 2020 form.
Census drafters talk about the limited “real estate” on the decennial form—they want to keep it to one page and 10 questions in order to assure most people answer it.
But ethnic and racial interest groups regularly lobby for inclusion. Question 9 on the 2010 census asks for the race of the person being counted, and then gives the option of nine Asian groups, plus a fill-in blank for anyone not already covered; a check box for native Americans and a fill-in blank for the name of their tribe; a fill-in blank for “some other race;” a check box for “black, African Am., or Negro” and a check box for “white.”
Groups representing Caribbean blacks, African immigrants and Arab-Americans already are asking for check boxes of their own in the 2020 census, says Lowenthal.
The Census Bureau doesn’t ask anyone except Asians and Hispanics about their nationality or ancestry on the decennial census. For everyone else–the one-quarter Italian, half-Czech, one-quarter Scot–that question is left to the American Community Survey, a household sampling that the bureau conducts yearly.