Take Two for January 8, 2013

Should Hispanic be considered a race for the 2020 Census?

Census Outreach Program Encourages People To Return Census Form

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

U.S. Census worker, Monique Stence, (L) gives census bags to Sandra Gutierrez (C) and Maria Martinez as they blanket a neighborhood during the "March to the Mailbox" effort on April 10, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The U.S. Census is using the "March to the Mailbox" event as one final effort to boost mail back rates in hard-to-count communities before personal visits to non-responding households start May 1.

The U.S. Census is taken every 10 years, and there is one yes or no question everyone is asked: Is this person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?

Then the next question asks your race. Among the boxes for you to check are white, black, American Indian, subcategories like Chinese or Japanese if you're Asian, and more if you're Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Then finally there's "other."  

But when you choose "other," then the Census assigns you one of those other races based on where you live. They'll look at your neighbors and assume your racial background is similar.

That's a good illustration of the problem the Census had in 2010.

The good news is that for the next go around in 2020, the government may change the way it asks the question. In order to get a more accurate picture of who's who, they may combine the first and second question on race and ethnicity into one mega question about a person's "background."

It's confusing, but there are big incentives to get the numbers right, because the Census is used to determine Congressional representation and federal funding, among other things.

Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, joins the show to explain how the initiative to change the question is based on the confusion by Latinos and Hispanics who mark their race as "other." 


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