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“Some Other Race”

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It’s been more than two years coming, but the U.S. Census Bureau has at last released research from its 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment. Unlike most Census studies, this one offers a comparison of different census questionnaire design strategies for how best to record/collect data for the categories “race” and “Hispanic origin.”

Based on federal standards for collecting and presenting data on race and Hispanic origin established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1997, the research tested questionnaire strategies in hopes of increasing the reporting of racial and ethnic categories as defined by OMB. Also on the agenda was an attempt to decrease the number of non-responses to census questionnaires and, so, increase the accuracy and reliability of the data. 

“The U.S. Census Bureau is committed to improving the accuracy and the reliability of census results by expanding our understanding of how people identify their race and Hispanic origin,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a press release last month. “The results will guide further research on the collection of race and ethnicity data throughout the decade, informing OMB and Congress.”

Among the more interesting findings was that the removal of the word “Negro” from the response option, “Black, African American, or Negro,” did nothing to change the distribution of the black population completing the questionnaires. This antiquated term was, according to the 2000 Census, apparently still relevant to some respondents; however, removing the term, “Negro,” did not result in a decrease of black population estimates.

Surprisingly, the “Some Other Race” response choice was the third highest among the responses for race category in the study, after “White” and “Black,” suggesting that Hispanic respondents are classifying themselves as “Some Other Race” on census forms.

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