Advancing Justice | AAJC Disappointed by Census Bureau About-Face on Race and Ethnicity Questions

Group Calls for OMB Intervention to Reverse This Unnecessary Move
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144
Mary Tablante 202-296-2300, ext. 0114

Washington, D.C. — January 26, 2018 — The U.S. Census Bureau announced its plans to use 2010 Census-style race and ethnicity questions for the 2018 End-to-End Test rather than updating the questions per recommendations of its staff for a combined question on race and ethnicity that provided detailed checkboxes for all groups and included a new response category for the Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) communities. The U.S. Census provides the most accurate count of all communities of color and is essential to make sure Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not dismissed or rendered invisible. 

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, issues the following statement:

“Advancing Justice | AAJC is extremely disappointed in the U.S. Census Bureau's decision to not modernize the 2018 End-to-End testing, overturning its own career staff's recommendation to include diverse category check boxes for all race and ethnicities on its 2020 Census form and combining race and ethnicity into one question. We view this change of course as a missed opportunity to align the next decennial census with the way society currently understands race and ethnicity and a missed opportunity to achieve an even better understanding of our country’s make-up.

Not providing race and ethnicity check boxes on the census form for all groups leads to less detailed results, which will suppress data that could help provide necessary resources to traditionally underserved populations. We are very disturbed by the categorical exclusion of the MENA population who fought hard for inclusion in the 2020 Census for their own checkboxes on the form. 

Millions of dollars have been invested in the planning and testing for the decentennial census and it should not go to waste. It is not too late to reverse this erroneous decision. We call upon the Office of Management and Budget to issue its revised standards in accordance with the Interagency Working Group recommendations, public comments, and Census Bureau research on race and ethnicity. And, once issued, we ask the Census Bureau to follow the new guidelines and return to its initial proposed question format (combined with MENA response options and check boxes for all groups), which will maintain the integrity of the Census and all efforts to have a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

We also call on Congress to investigate how this decision was made to forego many years of extensive research into whether official statistics reflect the full diversity of our rapidly changing population and reverse course from the recommendations of expert Census Bureau staff on the 2020 Census.”