A new question about citizenship on the 2020 census form is in the headlines these days, but the U.S. Census Bureau also plans other changes for the next national count. Among them: For the first time, the agency will add specific check boxes for same-sex couples to identify themselves, and it will ask people who check the white or black race boxes to say more about their national origins.
The bureau’s list of 2020 questions, sent to Congress for review late last month, also was notable for what it did not include. Despite years of research into possible benefits of combining the race and Hispanic questions on the form, the bureau will continue to ask them separately. Bureau researchers had said the combined question produced more complete and accurate data, especially about Hispanics. The census form also will not include a much-researched check box for people of Middle Eastern or North African origins.
The 2020 census is to ask seven data questions: age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, relationship status, homeownership status (own or rent) and citizenship. The bureau also listed several follow-up questions it will ask to make sure that everyone who usually lives in the household being surveyed is included.
The citizenship question, which has been challenged in court, will be asked last to “minimize any impact on decennial census response rates,” according to a memo from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the Census Bureau.