A 2020 Census Dilemma—Differentiating Race and Ethnicity

A 2020 Census Dilemma—Differentiating Race and Ethnicity

S.E. Williams Contributor

California needs a 2020 Census that truly reflects who we are as a state. One of the ways to accomplish this goal is by working to assure that everyone is appropriately counted—EVERYONE. 

Due to the state’s increasing diversity, a large percentage of residents are in communities the Census Bureau has historically undercounted. The goal is to change that paradigm in 2020. 

A stumbling block for some 2020 Census respondents may be related to how they should respond to Census questions about their race and ethnicity. It is important to stress the highly debated citizenship question is not part of the 2020 Census, as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the president’s request to include it.

It is important however, to assure communities are properly identified for any number of reasons including the development of business plans; understanding disparities in housing, employment, income, and poverty; and for the completion of grants. 

The U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) considers race and ethnicity to be two separate and distinct concepts requiring two separate and distinct responses.

Race is defined by the Bureau as, “[A] person’s self-identification with one or more social groups.” In other words, an individual can report as White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander, or some other race. Survey respondents are also free to report multiple races.

   In contrast, according to the Bureau, ethnicity determines whether a person is of Hispanic origin or not. For this reason, ethnicity is broken out in two categories, Hispanic or Latino and NOT Hispanic or Latino. Hispanics can be of any race and therefore this should be reflected in your response.

The collection of data regarding race and ethnicity is critical to policy makers who use the information to make funding decisions that affect educational opportunities, senior services, the assessment of  equal employment practices, and the information helps to ensure equal access to health care for everyone.

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