U.S. Department of Commerce Announces Reinstatement of Citizenship Question to the 2020 Decennial Census

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that a question on citizenship status will be reinstated to the 2020 decennial census questionnaire to help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Secretary Ross’s decision follows a request by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 decennial census.

Please click HERE to view the memorandum directing the Census Bureau to reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 decennial census.

The citizenship question will be the same as the one that is asked on the yearly American Community Survey (ACS).  Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses.  Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.  Today, surveys of sample populations, such as the Current Population Survey and the ACS, continue to ask a question on citizenship.

On December 12, 2017, DOJ requested that the Census Bureau reinstate a citizenship question on the decennial census to provide census block level citizenship voting age population (CVAP) data that is not currently available from government surveys. DOJ and the courts use CVAP data for the enforcement of Section 2 of the VRA, which protects minority voting rights.

Having citizenship data at the census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA, and Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.

Congress delegated to the Secretary of Commerce the authority to determine questions to be asked on the decennial census. The Census Act requires the list of decennial census questions be submitted to Congress no later than March 31, 2018.

Following receipt of the DOJ request, the Department of Commerce immediately initiated a comprehensive review process led by the Census Bureau, prioritizing the goal of obtaining complete and accurate data.

After a thorough review of the legal, program, and policy considerations, as well as numerous discussions with Census Bureau leadership, Members of Congress, and interested stakeholders, Secretary Ross has determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire is necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data.

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