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ICYMI: As SCOTUS Hears Census Case, New Research Details How Citizenship Q Would Lead to Huge Undercount, Especially Among Latinos and Immigrants

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As the U.S. Supreme Court today hears arguments about the potential addition of a new citizenship question to the U.S. Census, a new Washington Post piece summarizing relevant political science research underscores the harms that would result. Writing for the “Monkey Cage” political science section of the Washington Post, academics Matt Barreto, Chris Warshaw, Matthew A. Baum, Bryce J. Dietrich, Rebecca Goldstein, and Maya Sen write, “New research shows just how badly a citizenship question would hurt the 2020 Census,” describing their research findings that together show how the addition of the citizenship question would likely lead to a huge undercount, particularly of Latinos and immigrants throughout the country.

Below, find key excerpts of the Post piece, “New research shows just how badly a citizenship question would hurt the 2020 Census” (full article and analysis available via link):

Working separately, we have used surveys and experiments to show that the citizenship question would make people less likely to respond to the census and provide complete information if they do respond. This is particularly true for Latinos and immigrants.

The first piece of evidence comes from a survey conducted by UCLA political scientist Matt Barreto from July 10 to Aug. 10. It included a random sample of about 6,300 adults, including oversamples in California, the city of San Jose and two predominantly Latino counties in Texas, Cameron and Hidalgo. This provided a larger sample of Latinos (roughly 2,300) and immigrants more generally. More details about the survey and its methodology, as well as a full description of the survey’s findings, are here.

The survey revealed profound distrust about whether any citizenship information in the census would be kept private. Nationally, only 35 percent of immigrants and 31 percent of Latinos trusted the Trump administration to protect this information and not share it with other federal agencies — an issue that has already arisen in debates about the citizenship question. Trust in the Trump administration was even lower in California and San Jose. Substantial percentages of immigrants (41 percent) and Latinos (40 percent) are specifically concerned their citizenship information will be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

…The second piece of evidence comes from an experiment embedded in these surveys. All respondents were asked whether they would complete the census, but a random half of respondents were told that it would include a citizenship question. Barreto and George Washington University political scientist Chris Warshaw found that respondents told about a citizenship question were less likely to say they would take the census. The citizenship question caused a drop of more than two percentage points among all respondents. It caused six-point drop among Latinos and an 11-point drop among those who are foreign born.

… The third piece of evidence comes from an experiment embedded in a survey of more than 9,000 Americans, including an oversample of almost 5,000 Latinos. The survey was conducted from October through November by Harvard political scientists Matthew A. Baum, Bryce J. Dietrich, Maya Sen and Rebecca Goldstein. The survey mimicked the census short-form questionnaire and included an experiment in which half of respondents received a questionnaire with a citizenship question and half did not.

The Harvard researchers found the citizenship question negatively affected people’s willingness to complete the survey. Overall, Latinos skipped 4 percent more questions when they received the citizenship question. Latinos born in Mexico or Central America skipped 11 percent more questions. Receiving the citizenship question also made Latinos less likely to provide information about their household members’ race or ethnicity and led them to report fewer household members as having Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. Latinos who received the citizenship question underreported Latino household members by six percentage points.

… This evidence deserves to be front and center as the Supreme Court considers the possibility of adding a citizenship question. If the Trump administration’s decision is upheld, our research suggests, it would severely affect the ability of the Census Bureau to gather accurate information about the American population.

Also see the recent America’s Voice piece, “Immigration 101: the 2020 Census and the Citizenship Question,” explaining the background and importance of the Census and the implications of the potential citizenship question: https://americasvoice.org/blog/2020-census/