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January 11, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (NV-03) released the following statement after sending a letter to Mick Mulvaney, Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, urging him to consider implementing a one-question field for race/ethnicity during the 2020 census to more accurately collect that data.

“The Census Bureau’s current model for obtaining data on race and ethnicity is outdated and produces incomplete results,” said Rosen. “Condensing the existing two-part question on race and ethnicity to a single one can streamline our census and yield a clearer picture of our nation’s changing demographics. This commonsense change to the way we conduct our decennial census could save taxpayer dollars down the line and allow Congress to appropriately distribute funds and craft policy that best serves the diverse communities that make up our nation.”

“We applaud Rep. Rosen for her work towards reforming the Census model to more accurately and completely account for the Latino population in the United States,” said Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund executive director. “We hope this will lead to change and will help to create a more socially equitable reality for all Americans.” 

BACKGROUND:  Under Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Records, the United States Census currently employs two questions regarding race and ethnicity. Revising that directive to combine the two race-based questions into one would make it easier to fill out a census form, thereby collecting more data at less cost.

Read text of the letter here or below:


John M. Mulvaney
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20503

Dear Director Mulvaney:

The collection of complete and accurate data in the 2020 Census is essential to ensuring that the Census produces insights that advance economic development and the fair allocation of public resources.  To that end, we urge you to revise the standards in Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Records, to allow implementation of a single combined question on race and ethnicity for the 2020 Census.  The Census Bureau is required by law to submit the final questions for the 2020 Census to Congress by March 31, 2018.  

Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, last revised in 1997, requires the collection of race and ethnicity data based on a two-question approach.  Surveys first ask a question about Hispanic descent, followed by a second question collecting detailed information on racial identification.  In 2008, the Census Bureau began conducting research focused on improving the accuracy of data on race and ethnicity.  This research culminated in an extensive National Content Test in 2015 that tested both the traditional two-question approach as well as a new concept based on a question that asked for both racial and ethnicity identification through a single or combined question.

Based on the results of their research, the Census Bureau and many of its stakeholders support adoption of a single-question format. This design captures the highest volume of accurate, self-reported data, and results in the greatest reduction in burden to the Census Bureau, which must interpret or impute data for non-conforming or missing responses.  In fact, without alterations to the current format of government survey questions about race and ethnicity, the frequency with which participants provide vague or no answers is likely to increase, and the effort and expense required to maintain the quality and usefulness of data will also likely increase.

The decennial census is fundamentally important for sustaining our democracy and providing critical information to support good policy decisions and fuel economic growth.  Census data supports the allocation of over $600 billion in federal funds annually to meet the needs of our country.  It is imperative that all populations be accurately represented in the 2020 Census, and adopting the combined question is a cost-effective way to collect the most accurate and complete data on race and ethnicity.

As such, we urge you to take immediate action to issue revisions to the standards in Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 to allow the use of a combined question in the 2020 Census. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Jacky Rosen

Member of Congress