The U.S. Census Bureau is experimenting with eliminating the word “race” altogether in its 2020 survey, according to a report from the Pew Research Center on Thursday.
As part of its final research push before finalizing its 2020 wording, test-census forms will be sent to 1.2 million households later this fall in without any references to “race” or “origin.” Instead, the forms will ask: “Which categories describe person 1?” Respondents will then be able to choose from the usual list of racial and ethnic categories.
According to Pew, Census officials want to be clearer with their questions so that officials can gather more accurate data as required by law. Past testing and focus-group research has indicated confusion among found that the terms “race,” “ethnicity” and “origin” can mislead or confuse respondents, they can mean different things depending on the person answering.
“We recognize that race and ethnicity are not quantifiable values. Rather, identity is a complex mix of one’s family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, personal experience, context, and many other immeasurable factors,” the Census Bureau noted in a 2013 report on past testing efforts in the 2010 census. The report also recommended continued research on optimizing the use of examples for each racial and ethnic category, among other strategies…
The Bureau is also testing the use of a “Middle Eastern or North African” category within the current lineup.
It is not surprising to see such changes as the societal and Census definitions of race and ethnicity have changed quite a bit over time. Additionally, social researchers have to keep up with the changing societal definitions and understandings.
If major changes are coming in future Census surveys, how easy will it be to compare this data with past data?