The American Statistical Association Praises Federal Ruling in California Opposing Controversial Citizenship Question

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a federal judge in California issued a 126-page ruling stating that the decision to include in the 2020 census a controversial question regarding a respondents citizenship was arbitrary and capricious, represented an abuse of discretion, and was otherwise not in accordance with law. This development, in the wake of a similar ruling in New York, is an important step toward ensuring the quality and accuracy of the upcoming census. As the backbone of the U.S. data infrastructure, the census supports the economy, health, and well-being of our nation.

The courts ruling aligns with our position that the addition of a question at such a late stage of the census process lacks scientific justification and raises serious concerns about the outcome of this important data collection. Census Bureau research shows a high likelihood that the citizenship question will have a negative impact on response rates by increasing distrust of or suspicion about the government and its purposes in asking the question. Reduced response rates lead to high follow-up costs, and more damagingly, reduce the data quality of the census, possibly even making the results invalid and unusable.

There is no do-over. We rely on this data for critical decision-making over the next decade. We urge other courts evaluating the legality of the citizenship question to firmly reject its inclusion in the 2020 Census and to defend the quality and accuracy of this essential research.

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Mary Cobb
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