The decision, though a temporary reprieve, brings us one step closer to ensuring the accuracy of the data used to determine representation in Congress and the annual allotment of more than $880 billion in federal funds to states and local communities.
The ASA and AAPOR have strongly cautioned against the inclusion of the citizenship question at this late stage of the decennial census because the lack of scientific justification and the strong likelihood that census data quality will be compromised by its inclusion. The Bureau itself estimates addition of the question could now discourage a total of 3 million households, or 9 million people, from answering the census questionnaire. An incomplete census will force the government and the myriad users of census data to reckon with flawed data until the next census is conducted in 2030.
As the backbone of the data infrastructure supporting our nation’s economy, health, and well-being, the census must be fair and accurate. Today’s decision makes us optimistic that the professionals at the U.S. Census Bureau will be able to proceed with their important work without concern that an untested and scientifically unjustified question will hamper their efforts. But time is of the essence—with nine months to go to Census Day 2020—as this issue is directed back to district court. It is critical that planning for the census be able to move forward without the uncertainty that the citizenship question might still be included. The litigation, research, and public dialogue over the past year may well exert a chilling effect on the participation of hard-to-count people, including immigrants and noncitizens.
No matter the eventual outcome, we urge all residents of the United States to cooperate with and quickly respond to the 2020 Census next year in the spirit of good citizenship and the public good. We will redouble our support for the US Census Bureau and efforts to promote full public participation in the census. Everyone benefits from an accurate, non-partisan Census.