Census Studies New Options for Race, Ethnicity; Current 'Hispanic' Choice May Hold Down the Count

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Census Studies New Options for Race, Ethnicity; Current 'Hispanic' Choice May Hold Down the Count


Byline: Cory Brown, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

With increasing numbers of Americans deciding they don't fit into any of the five government-defined categories of race offered in the 2010 national head count, officials at the Census Bureau say they are considering major changes to survey questions on race and ethnicity for the upcoming 2020 census.

Officials said Wednesday that they hoped the changes would increase response rates in minority populations, with particular attention to the growing U.S. Hispanic community. Hispanic on the 2010 census was defined as an ethnic category, not a race, leading some 18 million Hispanics - more than a third of the total U.S. Latino population - to choose some other race when asked their racial classification.

Currently the Census Bureau only recognizes white, black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Asian as races. Hispanics and other minority communities such as North Africans, Middle Easterners and Arabs are viewed as ethnic groups and have to identify with one of the recognized races.

The Census Bureau also is considering dropping use of the term negro, leaving a choice of black or African-American, and is considering new classifications for Americans of Middle Eastern origin as well.

As new immigrant groups came to this country decade after decade, how we measure ethnicity changed to reflect the changing composition of the country, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a briefing for reporters Wednesday. Since that change is never ending, and America gets more and more diverse, how we understand and tabulate the information has to be continually open to change.

It's critical that race and ethnicity reflect how people identify themselves, he said.

In a separate section of the questionnaire given to some respondents in the 2010 census, Hispanics were given an option to choose Hispanic as their race or origin, and specific response rates rose substantially. The problem with the current system, according to the Census Bureau, is that the questionnaire is confusing or offensive and forces individuals to label themselves as a race that they do not identify with, causing many to skip the questions entirely. …

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Census Studies New Options for Race, Ethnicity; Current 'Hispanic' Choice May Hold Down the Count
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