The Corner

Law & the Courts

What’s Wrong with Asking about Citizenship on the Census?

A newly naturalized American citizen holds her new country’s flag and her naturalization papers as she is sworn in during a U.S. citizenship ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

A donnybrook has broken out over how the administration decided to add a citizenship question to the census. We’ll presumably learn more one way or the other, but it’s worth asking why it is considered such a scandal to ask about citizenship, which is a question on other government surveys and isn’t new on the census. Here is the Census Bureau itself describing what it asks as part of the very important, ongoing American Community Survey and why:

We ask questions about a person’s place of birth, citizenship, and year of entry into the United States to create data about citizens, noncitizens, and the foreign-born population.

Agencies and policymakers use our published statistics to set and evaluate immigration policies and laws, understand the experience of different immigrant groups, and enforce laws, policies, and regulations against discrimination based on national origin. These statistics also help tailor services to accommodate cultural differences.

And explaining the origins of these questions:

Citizenship originated with the 1820 Census, place of birth originated with the 1850 Census, and year of entry originated with the 1890 Census. They transferred to the ACS in 2005 when it replaced the decennial census long form.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

Most Popular

Religion

Chick-fil-A’s Shameful Capitulation

After what one Chick-fil-A executive called “years of taking it on the chin,” referring presumably to the decades of hectoring leveled at the company by LGBT activists, the press, and scolds at American colleges and universities, the fast-food chain announced its decision to withdraw support from three ... Read More
Religion

Chick-fil-A’s Shameful Capitulation

After what one Chick-fil-A executive called “years of taking it on the chin,” referring presumably to the decades of hectoring leveled at the company by LGBT activists, the press, and scolds at American colleges and universities, the fast-food chain announced its decision to withdraw support from three ... Read More
Film & TV

Frozen II Is a Fjord Fiasco

Since Frozen was a nearly perfect Disney feature, Frozen II brings with it the expectation of magic. Magic is really hard to pull off, though, and this time the sparkle is gone. In Frozen II, the story is strange, the jokes are terrible, the romance is nonexistent, and the songs are clunkers. Fairy tales that end ... Read More
Film & TV

Frozen II Is a Fjord Fiasco

Since Frozen was a nearly perfect Disney feature, Frozen II brings with it the expectation of magic. Magic is really hard to pull off, though, and this time the sparkle is gone. In Frozen II, the story is strange, the jokes are terrible, the romance is nonexistent, and the songs are clunkers. Fairy tales that end ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Clock

Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry is incoherent. Given the impossibility of a senatorial conviction, the only strategy is to taint the president with the brand of impeachment and weaken him in the 2020 election. Yet Schiff seems to have no sense that the worm has already turned. Far from tormenting Trump and ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Clock

Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry is incoherent. Given the impossibility of a senatorial conviction, the only strategy is to taint the president with the brand of impeachment and weaken him in the 2020 election. Yet Schiff seems to have no sense that the worm has already turned. Far from tormenting Trump and ... Read More
Elections

Warren’s Wealth Tax Is Unethical

Senator Warren would impose a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, and a 6 percent annual tax on wealth above $1 billion. These numbers may seem small, but remember that they would be applied every year. With wealth taxes, small numbers have large effects. Applied to an asset yielding a steady ... Read More
Elections

Warren’s Wealth Tax Is Unethical

Senator Warren would impose a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, and a 6 percent annual tax on wealth above $1 billion. These numbers may seem small, but remember that they would be applied every year. With wealth taxes, small numbers have large effects. Applied to an asset yielding a steady ... Read More