Citizenship and the 2020 Census

As a Census Bureau statistician, sociologist, and demographer sworn to accurately and confidentially develop statistics and steward data on the U.S. population – and, indeed, as a U.S. citizen with vested interest in pursuing justice and truth – I find the proposed addition of a citizenship item to the 2020 Census a significant and problematic development.

I will refrain from voicing my unfettered professional and personal opinions on the matter here. In their stead, I offer the below list of resources pertaining to the proposed question – the purpose, history, and constitutionality of the Census; the bounds in which the Census is conducted; the justifications offered by DOJ and DOC for the change; the likely impacts of the question if included; and the pathways by which the question may be removed from the 2020 Census prior to April 1, 2020. Where possible, resources listed below are first-hand documents, such as legal documents and official government letters; others are academic research papers or summaries thereof; a few are journalistic accounts of recent events. The goal is to inform and to allow readers to reach their own conclusions on this important matter.

Note that the resources provided below, and any conclusions insinuated by and/or drawn from them, are solely mine (or yours) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Census Bureau. That being said, it is clear that the addition of a citizenship item is anything but a neutral proposition.


Census History:

Enumeration Clause, U.S. Constitution

Constitutionality of a Citizenship Question on Decennial Census

Use of 1940 Census Block Level Data for Japanese Internment during WWII

Use of 1940 Census Individual Responses for Japanese Internment during WWII

Confidentiality and Title 13 U.S. Code (1954)

Title 13: Penalties for Non-Response and False Responses

Title 18: Penalties for Non-Response and False Responses


Citizenship Question Requests and Justifications:

DOJ’s Letter Requesting Addition of Citizenship Item to 2020 Census

DOC Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Defense of Citizenship Question

Citizen Voting Age Population Data (From Block Group to National Level)

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act

Growing Confidentiality Concerns among Minorities: Evidence from Census Bureau Focus Groups

Citizenship Question as a Trump 2020 Reelection Plank


Likely Impact of the Question:

Representation and Apportionment of Funds in Red and Blue States

Letter from Six Former Census Bureau Directors to Wilbur Ross on Citizenship Item

Impact in Washington State

Undercount Undermines Data Collection for the Next Decade

Scale and Cost of Non-Response Follow-Up Operations in 2000

Map of Census Non-Response


Current Lawsuits and Injunctions against the Question:

California Lawsuit Regarding Citizenship Question

Joint Lawsuit Regarding Citizenship Question (NY, CT, DE, IL, IA, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NC, OR, RI, VT, WA, MA, VA, PA, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Seattle, San Francisco, and the US Conference of Mayors)

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