Census finds greater race accuracy

The U.S. Census Bureau should approve a plan to change how it asks about race and ethnicity.

Luis Ruuska

I am of European (Spanish) and indigenous American (Mayan) descent, with the latter making up most of my observable traits. When filling out census or other official forms, I know which boxes to check. Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino. Race: Caucasian and Native American.

But when I was growing up, these questions always stumped me. I have always identified as Latino more than Caucasian or Native American. It turns out I wasn’t the only one facing this type of identity crisis.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that as many as 6.2 percent (19 million) of respondents selected “some other race” in the 2010 census. Hispanics made up a vast majority of these respondents.

However, Hispanics and Latinos are not alone in this census conundrum.

People of Middle Eastern and North African descent also misidentify themselves because the current census form categorizes them as “white,” though many people of those backgrounds don’t identify with this category.

In response to the confusion, the Census Bureau is considering lumping race and ethnicity together on forms in 2020 and on.

The new categories will include a Hispanic/Latino option, which will not be a separate question. Additionally, the Census Bureau will add a box under each category where respondents can list their specific country or tribe of origin that best matches their race category.

In the Census Bureau’s pilot test of the new form, it found that combining race and ethnicity reduced the selection of “some other race” among respondents to less than 1 percent.

I find the Census Bureau’s commitment to both highly accurate data and appropriate political correctness refreshing.

More importantly, these changes could positively affect these ethnic and racial groups by increasing representative congressional districts and access to crucial federal aid programs.

Hopefully, the Census Bureau will recognize this as well and use the new form.