Statistical Association Cheers Nix of Census Citizenship Question


The American Statistical Association (ASA) supports the conclusion of the 2020 census citizenship question debate, as President Trump announced in a White House news conference Thursday evening that the administration will not further pursue its efforts to include the question on the form.

This decision, says the ASA, puts at ease the most immediate threat to the data integrity of the 2020 census. However, the ASA emphasizes there is still much work to be done.

“We are reassured that the form for the decennial Census has been decided. Now we all must make every effort to communicate the vital importance of the census to the U.S., to assure individuals their responses are fully protected by law, and to secure as complete a response as possible,” said ASA president Karen Kafadar.

In particular, even the potential for a citizenship question has already raised concern about the possibility that certain groups will be undercounted, due to the negative publicity associated with the census. It will be critical to the success of the census that individuals understand the data they provide cannot be used to provide information about any individuals, including where they live.

“It is now the responsibility of the federal government to clearly and repeatedly emphasize the security and significance of responses to the census,” said Ron Wasserstein, ASA executive director. “As the 2020 census will inform federal decision-making for the full decade ahead, and the onus is on the government to undo the concern it has instilled with its deliberations.”

The ASA urges the administration make this point at every opportunity. It also urges all persons to complete the form when it comes to them at their residence, or to assist fully with census enumerators when they follow up at their door.

The census is the backbone of the U.S. data infrastructure, informing decisions across the public and private sectors and determining representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of the far-reaching impact it will have for the ensuing decade, extensive care, science and planning are put into each census, starting up to ten years in advance. The ASA and the greater community opposed the last-minute addition of the question because it disrupted the Census Bureau’s careful planning, lacked scientific justification, and compromised data quality.