The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Census Bureau is looking into possibly changing the questions about race and ethnicity in the 2020 Census:
The bureau’s new recommendations were based on research findings of a number of experimental questions given to 500,000 households during the 2010 census. The findings showed that many Americans believe the racial and ethnic categories now used by the census are confusing and don’t always jibe with their own views of their identity.
For example, asked to state their race on the 2010 census, more than 19 million people, including millions of Latinos, chose “some other race,” rather than select from the five categories offered on the census form: white, black, Asian, American Indian/Native Alaskan or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
One of the changes proposed now would simply ask respondents to choose their race or origin, allowing them to check a single box next to categories that would include white, black or Hispanic.
Another would add write-in categories to allow those of Middle Eastern or Arab origin to specifically identify themselves, officials said.
A third change would end the practice of offering the controversial term “Negro” as an alternative for African-American or black. Some African-Americans in 2010 criticized the government’s continuing use of the word, saying it was outdated and offensive.
As cultural definitions change, so should the Census in order to better match the lived reality. Of course, this attempt to improve the validity of the results makes it more difficult for researchers and others to match up results from newer Census results, marring the reliability. And as the article notes, this has political implications and this could play into the definitions as well.
It would be interesting to hear more about the experimental results from the 2010 survey as this is a good example of an experiment that doesn’t require a laboratory. What else did people like or not like? I assume the Census Bureau is not going to cave in to those who don’t want to answer a race or ethnicity question at all and/or those who simply answer “American.”