“the U.S. census needs a different race question”, does it?

“The stated aim — at least for the last half century — [of the census race question] is to help policy makers and demographers assess whether members of different racial groups have equal access to housing, education, employment and other services, as mandated by law.”

A fairly interesting tribune in Science News on the U.S. census race question and the feature that people often self-identify with a category with “doesn’t always match the box someone else might have checked for them”. The discussion focus on failing to protect discriminated groups because people from said discriminated groups do not identify as members of said discriminated groups. Or, because of a genetic ancestry test like 23andme, people from non-discriminated groups do identify as members of a particular discriminated group, e.g., native American Indians. And while there is a separate question on whether or not the respondant is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, a third of those answering in the affirmative tick the “other race” box in the census. While the sociologist whose work inspired this article calls for different questions in the census, towards a better reflection of actual discrimination, nowhere is the notion of “race” defined or explicited in this paper. Which may be related to the fact that there is no scientifically accepted such definition, as discussed in this UN report. Except all of us belonging to the Homo sapiens sapiens subspecies and descending from common ancestors in Africa.

I thus wonder at the relevance at keeping such a confusing entry in a census: in several European countries including France, it is actually illegal to collect statistics about the race, ethnicity, religion or ancestry. Given the above confusion in the US census and no clear solution to redress the observed biases, discrimination should be fought on sounder bases…

4 Responses to ““the U.S. census needs a different race question”, does it?”

  1. Bill Jefferys Says:

    I have regularly gone down to the end and checked “Other” and then written “Human”. I believe I mention that “Race” is not a scientifically valid classification.

    I have never had problems because of doing this.

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