Whether it is defining Native Americans as non-citizens in 1800 or introducing a “mulatto” category in 1850, the classification of race and ethnicity on the U.S. Census has long been inherently political (Nobles 2000). This is why many paused when the Census Bureau announced it would include, for the first time since 1950, a question on residents’ citizenship status on the 2020 Census. An obvious concern is that some residents may refuse to participate altogether. Another less-well understood concern is that such a question may make any omissions more difficult to interpret. Are respondents who fail to report a Hispanic household member doing so in order to avoid potential prosecution? Or are they simply forgetting to include pertinent information? This ultimately affects data quality, which carries broader implications for the way federal funds are allocated and congressional districts are apportioned.
Baum, Matthew A., Bryce J. Dietrich, Rebecca Goldstein, and Maya Sen. "Estimating the Effect of Asking About Citizenship on the US Census: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP19-015, April 2019.