US Census Bureau may soon lose some Trump-era constraints

    WORLD  28 January 2023 - 07:50

    Philip Bump, a New York-based columnist has written an article for The Washington Post analysing the drawbacks of the data collection methodologies of the US Census Bureau. Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    The Census Bureau sits at the same uncomfortable nexus as a lot of data- or science-based government agencies: committed to collecting data on the country’s population with as much accuracy as it can, but subject to the vagaries of the political leaders who control its leadership and budget.

    During the Trump administration, those tensions were unusually apparent. As part of his efforts to constrain immigration to the United States, Donald Trump advocated the collection of information about citizenship on the 2020 census despite research showing it would reduce participation. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted the question was unrelated to politics, an argument quickly revealed as dishonest; the administration ultimately decided not to press charges against him for lying to Congress. The Brennan Center aptly described the attempt to include a citizenship question as an effort to “exert extreme partisan influence” over the bureau.

    But there was another likely political decision made by administration officials that attracted far less attention, despite how it affected the quality of the 2020 count. For years, the bureau had explored streamlining its collection of data on race, eliminating the division between race (White, Black, Asian) and ethnicity (Hispanic or not) that’s been the standard for decades. But a recommendation that the 2020 census include revamped questions was ultimately ignored.

    On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that, several years too late for the 2020 count, it would support the new question on race. That announcement re-raises an old question: Why did Trump’s team ignore it in the first place?

    The question of how the government records race is more fundamental to American politics than it may seem. As I was researching my recent book — which looks, among other things, at how generational change overlaps with demographic change — that importance became immediately clear. By limiting the racial categories it asks about, the bureau necessarily limits the extent to which it can measure racial composition. That has ramifications both for policy and politics.

    The years of research on a new question about race determined both that eliminating the Hispanic/ethnicity divide and including a category for people of Middle Eastern or North African heritage would provide better information about the country’s population. There was a plan established for what the new question would look like, one that had been tested by bureau researchers. Ultimately, though, such a decision rests not with the Census Bureau but with the Office of Management and Budget, which controls government data collection. And OMB is an arm of the White House.

    According to people I spoke with as I was exploring why the question wasn’t implemented, the buck-stops-here point for its inclusion was the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. At the time, it was run by Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee. Many of these decisions are obscured through layers of bureaucracy, but we get some sense of how Rao feels about collection of racial data in her 2017 rejection of a rule drafted under the Obama administration which would have had companies collect data on income by race and gender. When Rao was later nominated by Trump to replace Brett M. Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, her opposition to affirmative action drew scrutiny from Democrats.

    Why would Trump’s team oppose this seemingly clarifying question, though? What change would it bring about that it found unhelpful? Some of those I spoke with suggested that a concern was an increased erosion of the number of White Americans. After all, if you give people the option to choose “Latino” or “Hispanic” instead of “White” with Hispanic ethnicity, those numbers necessarily fall (though by now most references to “White” in federal data include the implied or explicit qualifier “non-Hispanic White”). If you also segment out Middle Eastern and North African people — as both the Trump-era rule and the new Biden recommendation would — you’re removing another group from that overarching “White” category.

    The extent to which a decline in the number of “White” Americans is important is certainly subjective, but unquestionably one that overlaps with politics. Importantly, research shows that the group most alarmed at the idea of a declining White majority is White Republicans. So what the bureau ended up doing instead was refining how it recorded people’s submitted data on race, leading to a surge in the number of Americans who identified as “White and some other race.”

    At the time the decision was being made, there was revealing outside pressure on the subject. Writing for the Wall Street Journal in March 2017, conservative writer Mike Gonzalez argued that adding Middle Eastern to the racial categories would “create yet another interest group,” while adding Hispanic would “make it harder for Americans who originate in Latin America to identify themselves as black, white or some other race.” It’s certainly fair that some people don’t fit neatly into either a “Black” or “Hispanic” category, for example — like some immigrants from the Dominican Republic, for example — but there are of course already millions of Americans who might struggle to pick one single racial identity from a list.

    Gonzalez distilled his broader objection a bit later in the essay.

    “Strong group identification is the lifeblood of the ‘progressive’ project,” he wrote — “which is why today’s U.S. immigrants and their descendants must not be allowed to embrace a simply American identity, as did previous generations of newcomers to these shores.”

    Again, the Trump administration’s rationale for nixing the revised question was never made public; those I spoke with could only guess at the influences and reasoning. But it’s hard to assume that politics didn’t play any role, given the outside narrative, the internal leadership and the president’s own position. And, of course, the fight over the citizenship question.

    The new question may still not make it to the census, of course. The Biden administration’s announcement simply sets it on the official path toward implementation. And if we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that politics can always find a way to intervene.


    Subscribe to our Telegram channel

Read also

Russian General Gerasimov's winter offensive in Ukraine fails, says British intelligence

01 April 2023 - 14:45

Carrying concealed weapon now legal in Florida

01 April 2023 - 13:30

Ukraine military repels over 70 Russian attacks in Donetsk

01 April 2023 - 13:55

Ukraine updates Russian military losses

01 April 2023 - 14:08

Portion of Muslim population in France in 2019-2020 revealed

01 April 2023 - 12:21

AP sources: Trump facing at least one felony charge in NY case

01 April 2023 - 12:32
Latest news

    Russia's Shoigu holds meeting on weapons supply to army

    01 April 2023 - 14:58

    Russian General Gerasimov's winter offensive in Ukraine fails, says British intelligence

    01 April 2023 - 14:45

    Smuggling of narcotic drugs from Iran to Azerbaijan prevented

    01 April 2023 - 14:33

    Azerbaijan's position clear against Iran's accusations, says MFA

    01 April 2023 - 14:20

    Ukraine updates Russian military losses

    01 April 2023 - 14:08

    Ukraine military repels over 70 Russian attacks in Donetsk

    01 April 2023 - 13:55

    Fitch puts Azerbaijan’s state budget surplus in 2023 at 4.8% of GDP

    01 April 2023 - 13:42

    Carrying concealed weapon now legal in Florida

    01 April 2023 - 13:30

    Fitch mentions recent improvement of Azerbaijan’s banking sector

    01 April 2023 - 13:19

    IMF approves multi-billion dollar loan for Ukraine

    01 April 2023 - 13:06

    Azerbaijan detains over 50 border violators in 2023

    01 April 2023 - 12:54

    AP sources: Trump facing at least one felony charge in NY case

    01 April 2023 - 12:32

    Portion of Muslim population in France in 2019-2020 revealed

    01 April 2023 - 12:21

    Defence minister: Nobody can speak to Azerbaijan in language of threats

    01 April 2023 - 12:10

    More Azerbaijani judokas join Grand Slam tournament in Türkiye

    01 April 2023 - 12:00

    Erdogan says quake-related issues stand above all

    01 April 2023 - 11:48

    Armenian serviceman killed by his comrade

    01 April 2023 - 11:36

    Fitch forecasts decrease in inflation in Azerbaijan

    01 April 2023 - 11:30

    Azerbaijani oil raises in price

    01 April 2023 - 11:26

    ICRC vehicles continue free movement on Lachin-Khankendi road

    01 April 2023 - 11:15

    Azerbaijan, Türkiye team up to boost gas, electricity projects

    Review by Caliber.Az

    01 April 2023 - 11:06

    US seeks to keep Yemen-bound ammunition seized from Iran

    01 April 2023 - 11:03

    Winter returns to Azerbaijan


    01 April 2023 - 10:51

    Belgium urges its citizens to immediately leave Iran

    01 April 2023 - 10:46

    US to announce new military aid package for Ukraine next week

    01 April 2023 - 10:43

    Zelenskyy still sticks to his condition for diplomatic solution with Russia

    01 April 2023 - 10:41

    Germany to partially close airspace during NATO drills

    01 April 2023 - 10:38

    Azerbaijan to set up ASAN service fund under UN

    01 April 2023 - 09:35

    111 days of perseverance: Azerbaijani eco-activists continue protesting

    01 April 2023 - 09:25

    Northrop’s battle command system for Poland primes production pump


    01 April 2023 - 09:00

    Zelenskyy's gambit puts China's Xi on spot

    Analysis by Newsweek

    01 April 2023 - 08:02

    Analysts: Turkish lira to weaken regardless who wins elections

    01 April 2023 - 07:01

    Russia won't sit idly by after Finland, Sweden join NATO

    01 April 2023 - 06:00

    Financial Times: Prepare for a multipolar currency world

    Opinion by Gillian Tett

    01 April 2023 - 05:02

    Saudi Arabia's most important task revitalizing its national identity

    Opinion by David Reaboi

    01 April 2023 - 04:03

    Is Hungary reliable EU, NATO member?

    Analysis by Carnegie Europe

    01 April 2023 - 03:02

    The Economist: What to do with Russia’s abandoned luxury yachts?

    01 April 2023 - 02:01

    China's growing influence in Mideast leaves US worried


    01 April 2023 - 01:00

    Ukrainians need Abrams tanks to stop Russians from planting deadly landmines

    01 April 2023 - 00:02

    Barcelona manager confesses his "Messi love"

    ... amidst reports of superstar's possible return

    31 March 2023 - 23:05

    Israel is somewhere it’s never been before

    Analysis by Foreign Policy

    31 March 2023 - 23:01

    Putin’s Russia going broke fast. Here’s why

    Analysis by The New Republic

    31 March 2023 - 22:00

    Türkiye strongly condemns repeated attack on Quran, Turkish flag in Denmark

    31 March 2023 - 21:28

    Armenia detects new strain of Omicron nicknamed "kraken"

    31 March 2023 - 21:21

    Germany's Scholz believes conflict in Ukraine can last until 2027

    31 March 2023 - 21:20

All news