Wilbur Ross: No evidence citizenship question on 2020 census will dampen response rate
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said charges that including a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census will lead to fewer responses is based more on a gut feeling than actual evidence.
“No one provided evidence that there are residents who would respond accurately to a decennial census that did not contain a citizenship question but would not respond if it did, although many believed that such residents had to exist,” Ross wrote in a detailed memorandum released late Monday along with his decision.
Read: 2020 Census will ask about citizenship, Commerce says
“While it is possible this belief is true, there is no information available to determine the number of people who would in fact not respond due to a citizenship question being added, and no one has identified any mechanism for making such a determination,” Ross said.
Ross noted two former top Census Bureau officials, one during the Obama administration and one during the George W. Bush administration, told Commerce officials that adding the citizenship question risked lowering the response rate, but said there was limited empirical evidence to support this view. Ross did not identify the officials.
Even if there is some impact on responses, the value of accurate data from adding the question outweighs concerns, he said.
Critics say the question will cause immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond. This will result in an inaccurately low count on this population, leading to less government and private-sector assistance to a vulnerable group. Also at issue is the use of the data in Congressional redistricting.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced he is suing the Trump administration over the decision. He said including the question is illegal.
Here's the lawsuit we filed last night against @realdonaldtrump's #census2020 decision. #California simply has too much to lose for us to allow his Administration to botch this obligation! #citizenship pic.twitter.com/Kp1WWJ3jC8
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) March 27, 2018
Some commentators told Commerce that the political climate generally and fears that Census responses could be used for law enforcement purposes would limit cooperation from immigrants.
“The reinstatement of a citizenship question will not decrease the response rate of residents who already decided not to respond,” Ross said.
The Commerce secretary said he would place the citizenship question last on the census form to minimize its impact.