Citizenship question may result in less accurate 2020 census, says former bureau director

Citizenship question may result in less accurate 2020 census, says former bureau director


JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Department of Commerce
announced Monday that it plans to add back a question on citizenship status to the 2020
census. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained the
move on FOX Business Channel this morning. WILBUR ROSS, U.S. Commerce Secretary: We have
heard from people on all sides of the equation. We have done elaborate analyses within the
Census Department, and we have concluded that the benefits to the Voting Rights Act enforcement
of asking the question outweighs these other issues. JUDY WOODRUFF: The state of California is
suing the administration, calling the move unconstitutional. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
said today that it would lead to an inaccurate head count. XAVIER BECERRA (D), California Attorney General:
Certainly, we know for many people in this country, as a result of the broken immigration
system, there are many individuals who might fear participating in the census if a question
about citizenship is asked. JUDY WOODRUFF: There was mixed reaction from
members of Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called
it detrimental, while Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the census update is commonsense. The Department of Justice originally requested
the change, and in a statement to the “NewsHour,” the agency said that it — quote — “looks
forward to defending the reinstatement of the citizenship question, which will allow
the department to protect the right to vote and ensure free and fair elections for all
Americans.” I spoke with Kenneth Prewitt, former head
the U.S. Census Bureau and now a professor at Columbia University, about what these changes
mean. KENNETH PREWITT, Former U.S. Census Director:
I believe it will result in a less accurate and a less inclusive census than we would
have had without this question being put on the census at the last minute. JUDY WOODRUFF: Why? KENNETH PREWITT: I think it’s going to frighten
people, certain segments of the population. We’re already dealing with a lack of trust
in the government, and we’re certainly dealing with an immigration crisis about how we’re
rounding people up and so forth. And I think the citizenship question will
come across as a statement that some people belong here and others don’t, but that’s not
what the Constitution says. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, among other things, the
administration is pointing out that they have already been asking this question on some
census surveys over a number of years, so that it’s not that different from what they
have done. KENNETH PREWITT: No, it’s asked on a number
of places. And the Census Bureau does a very good job
of having very accurate reports on the citizenship of the population. It’s used to advance the Voting Rights Act. It works very well. So this is extra, but it’s extra in a highly
visible way. Nothing is as visible as the decennial census. And I just think it will attract a lot of
attention, and not all of that will be welcome attention. JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you know, can you tell us
with information gathered by the census can be used? Is it shared with the Department of Justice,
for example? KENNETH PREWITT: Only in the aggregate. Of course, it’s shared with the entire public
in the aggregate, but not ever an individual record. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in terms of an individual
immigrant, you were saying being fearful of talking to a census-taker, their information
is not something that would be passed on and acted on by the government? KENNETH PREWITT: No, but it’s not easy to
convince everybody in the American public that that is true. If you lived in a home that were, say, half
immigrants, half citizens, half non-citizens, and you’re even a citizen and you get to that
part of the form where you have to list the third or fourth person, and they’re not a
citizen, I just think people will be very uncomfortable doing that. We know about the raids and so forth. I’m not saying that’s going to happen. I’m only saying how the public will respond
to this. JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the consequences of
not getting an accurate count? KENNETH PREWITT: You create an unfairness,
because most of the big benefits from a census are proportionate to population size. That includes, of course, redistricting. It includes reapportionment. It also includes federal moneys. Six trillion dollars will be spent on formulas
based upon the 2020 census over the next 10 years. And a state or a group that is less counted
than another one is going to get less of its share of money, less of its share of political
voice. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, some people are
already pointing out that among those states or districts that voted heavily for President
Trump in the 2016 election, some of them may stand to lose or gain federal funds as a result
of the census? How do you see that? KENNETH PREWITT: Veterans, schoolteachers,
transportation officials, these are all programs that depend upon the census data. And a bad count means that they are going
to be — suffer from the absence of having their full numbers represented in the census. JUDY WOODRUFF: The question has been raised
in terms of who’s going to be affected by this census count, whether it is correct or
not. And we have a map here showing some of the
— these are the fastest growing immigrant populations in the country, and most of these
states were states where President Trump won them in 2016. How do you see the impact in these states? KENNETH PREWITT: Well, in those states, they
will still be undercounted, and they will not have political voice in that respect. Let me just say it this way. We have never had a polarized census, one
in which the public can experience as, oh, there’s a Democratic side and a Republican
side. I think that’s a very dangerous place for
the country to be. I think this census has always been — the
Census Bureau is not political. It’s always been — the numbers, of course,
are political, but not the process of counting the American people. And I think that what we’re stepping into
is a condition where we’re going to polarize the census. And that’s not healthy. And I can imagine a lot of people not being
as cooperative as they might have otherwise been. JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you think that necessarily
benefits one political party or another? KENNETH PREWITT: I think it’s unpredictable. It will, but I don’t want to say it’s going
to favor the Democrats or the Republicans. I don’t even know that, and I don’t think
anyone knows that. I don’t think it was intentionally done that
way, but I think it’s going to have consequences, which is simply going to lead to inaccuracy
and unfairness, irrespective of who’s suffering or who’s rewarded in this. JUDY WOODRUFF: Kenneth Prewitt, the former
director of the United States census, thank you very much. KENNETH PREWITT: It was my pleasure. Thank you, Judy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *