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Census 2020: Citizenship Question

Jun 27, 2019

In 2018, the Secretary of Commerce proposed a mandatory question to ask respondents about their citizenship on the 2020 Census. The stated goal of including the question was to collect data on immigration status to better enforce federal voting rights laws.

On June 27, 2019, by a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court returned the matter of including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form to lower courts for further review. The court determined that including this question on the form would not violate federal law. However, it queried whether the Department of Commerce had given a genuine justification for including the question. Although the Department has some time to provide a better justification, the Census form must be final before the end of June 2019.

We are pleased that this decision keeps the question off the 2020 Census form for now.  In August of 2018, Colorado Nonprofit Association submitted written comments to the Department of Commerce asking the Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census form for the following reasons.

Our Concerns about the Citizenship Question

The citizenship question discourages certain populations from responding, especially documented and undocumented immigrants and their familes, which increases the risk of an inaccurate and incomplete count.

This question has not been thoroughly tested and the Census Bureau's own research from 2017 shows that asking questions about immigration status increases concerns about confidentiality and decreases the likelihood of complete responses.

The citizenship question weakens Colorado's opportunity to increase its federal representation and assistance by increasing the risk of an undercount:

Any undercount resulting from the citizenship question means nonprofits face increased demand for services with fewer resources:

  • Nonprofits rely on accurate Census data to have a clear picture of the communities and populations they serve. Undercounts weaken their ability to fully understand community needs and direct their resources appropriately.
  • Reduced federal assistance means less federal funding for grants and contracts that support nonprofits' mission-related work. This includes state and local government grants and contracts funded entirely or partially by federal funds.
  • Reduced federal funding also means increased demand for nonprofits' services as Colorado's families receive less assistance from federally-funded programs 

The citizenship question is unnecessary. The American Community Survey already collects citizenship data at the block level every year. Including this question on the census form would means all people would be required to answer it rather than the concentrated and representative sample used for the American Community Survey. 

How to Comment on the Citizenship Question

The comment period is closed. We asked nonprofit organizations to submit comments by 11:59 pm on Tuesday August 7, 2018.

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