Census Bureau considers change to head count

The Census 2010 survey.

Jeff Horwich: The ink is barely dry on the 2010 Census, but the process of planning and tweaking the next population count is already underway. This week, the Census Bureau unveiled some ideas for changing how it collects data on race and ethnicity.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports.


Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: Currently, race and the category “Hispanic” are two separate questions on the Census form.  Under one proposal, Census respondents would have the option of choosing “Hispanic” as their race or origin.

Nicholas Jones heads up the Census Bureau’s Racial Statistics Branch.

Nicholas Jones: We tested out different ways of asking questions about how we measure the ways in which people self-identify.

The idea is to increase response rates. But some worry under the change respondents would fail to list specific ethnicities or countries of origin. And that ultimately, that could affect funding for programs aimed at those populations.

Roderick Harrison of Howard University is a former chief of the Racial Statistics Branch.

Roderick Harrison: Most advocacy groups use Census data to justify the need for programs or to argue for more funding for programs that serve these populations.

The Census Bureau has several more years to tinker with the questions for the next survey.

I'm Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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