To Ask Or Not To Ask

April 7, 2018

Seventeen states sued the US government this week over a single question. Wait, what? You see, every ten years, the United States conducts a census to figure out, among other things, how many people live in each state. While the main purpose of the census is to help divide senate seats by population (the bigger the population in a state, the bigger the representation in the senate), the responses from the census are important in terms of planning resources and supporting residents.

By law, census responses must be truthful. Also, the responses are confidential, which means census workers are not permitted to reveal identifiable information about the responses. Well, the question causing a stir comes from the Trump administration, which is proposing to add “Are you a citizen of the United States?” to the census that will be conducted in 2020.

Opponents of the question say it is unconstitutional and that people who are not citizens will shy away from responding to the survey, thus resulting in undercounting some states’ populations. As a result, states like California and New York, which have large populations (and are therefore represented in large numbers in the senate), might see less representation. Supporters of the question say it will provide a better and more accurate account of who can vote in each region (currently only US citizens are allowed to vote).What do you think? Does the question, “Are you a citizen of the United States?” help or hurt the census?

Do you know what other questions are on the census?