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The ANNALS: Our Bimonthly Journal of Research

What Census Data Miss about American Diversity

Special Editors: Richard Alba and Kenneth Prewitt

Vol. 677, May 2018

The decennial census is much in the news, unusual this far in advance of census day (April 1, 2020). The newsworthiness stems from growing concern that the next census will fall short on the census’s most basic function: an accurate count of the nation’s population.  Much is at stake: apportioning congressional seats among states, redrawing legislative districts, allocating some $7 trillion taxpayer dollars over the 2020s for social programs and public works, and planning about private-sector investments and commercial operations.

Beyond these immediate, practical consequences is the grander responsibility of the census to paint America’s portrait, allowing us to better understand who we are as a nation and how we are changing. For this, data on race and ethnicity are central. White, Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander are the official race categories on the census: every American has the option to mark one or more of these race categories or to identify as “some other race.” Every American is also asked whether they are “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.”  Read more…

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Featured Fellow

Kathryn Edin, 2014 Margaret Mead Fellow

Kathryn Edin, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University, is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers. The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women and men. Edin is particularly interested in questions about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare? Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place? Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives? Read more…