January 2018 Census Project Update

Appropriations Update

The year began the same as the last ended—with little progress on a final Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations package and the federal government largely running on funds provided through a series of continuing resolutions (CR). On January 19, when the U.S. Senate failed to pass another short-term CR, a three-day government shutdown commenced. Fortunately, the short-lived CR did not dramatically set back decennial census preparations or activities. However, future, longer CRs could imperil Census 2020 activities—in particular, the 2018 End to End Test—unless the Administration and Congress provide the Bureau with a true funding anomaly.

According to the White House, the government shutdown compelled the Administration to delay release of its FY 2019 proposed budget from February 5 to February 12. Census stakeholders are anticipating a very challenging budget cycle for the Census Bureau since most of the additional decennial census funds Commerce Secretary Ross requested are needed in FY 2019.

Citizenship question update

As reported in the December Census Project update, on December 12, the Department of Justice sent Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin a letter requesting a citizenship question be added to the 2020 Census. While the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce did not respond officially to the request in January, media coverage exploded with articles appearing in a wide range of outlets. Certain members of Congress and census stakeholder organizations also responded, expressing concern about the potential adverse consequences this question raises. A comprehensive listing of these articles and responses is organized under the “News You Can Use” section of the update.

OMB rejects use of revised race and ethnicity questions in 2018 Census Test

On January 26, the Census Bureau announced that it would continue to use two separate questions for collecting data on race and ethnicity in the 2018 End-to-End Census Test and the 2020 Census. This decision was influenced by the Office of Management and Budget, which responded to a federal interagency working group report that may have recommended using a combined question format for collecting race and ethnicity data as well as establishing a new, separate Middle Eastern or North Africa category on the census form. Some changes will be enacted however, including collecting multiple Hispanic ethnicities, such as Mexican and Puerto Rican, removing the term “Negro,” and adding examples for the American Indian or Alaska Native racial category.

News You Can Use

Citizenship question: Media stories

The Washington Post, “The Trump administration pushes for a change that could derail the census,” January 2

The New York Times, “Critics Say Questions About Citizenship Could Wreck Chances for an Accurate Census,” January 2

Los Angeles Times, “Why the census shouldn’t try to count undocumented immigrants,” January 4

USA TODAY, “Census 2020 doesn’t need citizenship question,” January 8

The Atlantic, “The Controversial Question DOJ Wants to Add to the U.S. Census,” January 10

NPR, “Adding Citizenship Question Risks ‘Bad Count’ For 2020 Census, Experts Warn,” January 10

The Washington Post, “President Trump is playing politics with the 2020 Census. It could backfire,” January 12

The Wall Street Journal, “The Census Should Ask About Citizenship,” January 15

The Washington Times, “Trump officials want 2020 census to ask about citizenship,” January 21

The Washington Post, “Potential citizenship question in 2020 Census could shift power to rural America,” January 24

Washington Examiner, “Why we need to count citizens in the 2020 census,” January 25

CNN, “Citizenship Question: Political Power Shift?,” January 27

U.S. News & World Report, “Ensure Everyone Is Counted,” January 30

The Federalist, “Why Democrats Really Don’t Want To Reinstate The Citizenship Question On The U.S. Census,” February 1

Citizenship question: Congressional and public response

Five senators sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to not include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, January 5

Representative José E. Serrano and Representative Grace Meng sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking him to reject the proposed citizenship question.

Press Release: Maloney, Serrano, Gutiérrez, 100+ Members Urge Sec. Ross to Reject DOJ’s Misguided Request to Add Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census, January 18

Press Release: 171 Civil and Human Rights Groups to Secretary Ross: Oppose DOJ’s Unnecessary Request to Add Citizenship Question to 2020 Census, January 10

Changes to race and ethnicity standards: Media stories

The Hill, “Race in America is changing; Census Bureau must catch up,” December 20

The Washington Post, “It’s time the Census Bureau stops dividing America,” January 3

The Washington Post, “Yes, the census should be tracking race and ethnicity,” January 23