ETHNICITY & Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all #PewRe search

BY D’VERA COHN, Pew Research, 6/19/15.

2020 Census QuestionPossible 2020 census race/Hispanic question for online respondents, who would click to the next screen to choose more detailed sub-categories such as “Cuban” or “Chinese.” Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity.

Census forms now have two questions about race and Hispanic origin. The first asks people whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and states that “Hispanic origins are not races.” A second question asks, “What is this person’s race?” and includes a list of options with checkboxes and write-in spaces. The U.S. government defines Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.

The problem with using the word “race” is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from “origin.” The agency’s focus group research found that some people think the words mean the same thing, while others see race as meaning skin color, ancestry or culture, while origin is the nation or place where they or their parents were born.

2010 Census Question on Race and Ethnicity2010 census form asks about race and Hispanic ethnicity separately. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau’s own definitions of race and Hispanic origin, which follow government-wide rules from the Office of Management and Budget, sometimes appear to overlap. A white person, for example, is defined as someone “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.” Hispanic is defined as a person of “Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a fluid product of many influences. “We recognize that race and ethnicity are not quantifiable values,” the Census Bureau said in a 2013 report. “Rather, identity is a complex mix of one’s family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, personal experience, context, and many other immeasurable factors.”

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/18/census-considers-new-approach-to-asking-about-race-by-not-using-the-term-at-all/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=a19d4f9cf5-June_18_Newsletter6_18_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-a19d4f9cf5-399907237