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CEO DATELINE – Science groups oppose citizenship question on census

Nov. 6, 2018
By Walt Williams

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A trio of scientific societies are opposed to the Trump administration adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying there is no rationale for the addition.

The American Sociological Association, American Statistical Association and Population Association of America recently filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the addition of the question. The lawsuit was bought against the U.S. Department of Commerce by more than two dozen states and cities and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Critics of the proposal fear asking about citizenship will make people less like to participate in the census and skew the results. The three societies echoed that fear in a joint news release about their court action.

“It is also our scientific judgment the additional question is likely to undermine the quality of the census data, which will potentially have wide ramifications for the decade to come,” said Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association. “Census data determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and inform allotment of federal assistance as well as decisions for a wide variety of economic, social and other sectors, both public and private.”

Nancy Kidd, executive director of the American Sociological Association, said it was unprecedented to add a question to the census so late in the process.

“If the U.S. Department of Commerce fails to submit a question to rigorous testing, it fails to fulfill its constitutional mandate to produce an accurate count of the population,” Kidd said. “Further, there are existing data sources that can be used to measure citizenship, rendering this addition to the 2020 Census fundamentally unnecessary.”

The lawsuit is currently in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.