“Demographic Analysis” And The Census

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

There are two principal ways that we try to learn about the size of the US population. One, the decennial census, is the focus of this blog. The other method, called “demographic analysis,” uses the “vital registration” system of the US — birth registrations, death registrations – as well as estimates of immigration and emigration.

These four sources of demographic information, compiled from historical data and supplemented with results from earlier censuses, provide another look at the size of the population. All four of the data sources allow separate estimates of males and females, different age groups, and, traditionally, different racial groups.

In the past, demographic analysis has been used as one tool to evaluate the census. Past census publications present estimates of “net undercount” for age, gender, and race groups, under the assumption that differences between the demographic analysis and the census reflected census coverage weaknesses.

Through their ongoing research, Census Bureau demographers have found, however, some weaknesses with demographic analysis to evaluate a census. Two seem most important. First, the undocumented immigrant population is not included in the record systems, thus becoming subject to various survey-based, indirect sources of estimates. Second, the measurement of racial groups on the records has deviated from that of the US decennial censuses, making estimation of individual racial groups different from what a perfect census might obtain with its racial measurements.

A great conference at Census Bureau headquarters a few days ago gathered experts to give advice about how the 2010 demographic analysis results should be presented. Based on this workshop the Census Bureau is assembling multiple estimates of population counts by age, gender, and race, to reflect the real uncertainties about the current status. Thus, instead of one population count based on demographic analysis, in December, 2010, we’ll present several – an honest statement of what we know and what we don’t know. We also won’t refer to the differences between the demographic analysis estimates and the census counts as the net undercount of the census. Instead, it’s best to view demographic analysis as another way to estimate population sizes, with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Bertrand Russell, in commenting on how science progresses, once noted that the more scientists know, the more they also know what they don’t know. By giving the country multiple estimates, we’ll be reflecting this higher state of understanding the difficulties of demographic analysis.

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37 Responses to “Demographic Analysis” And The Census

  1. Janet says:

    When the Founding Fathers declared that ALL inhabitants of our country need to be counted in the census, I believe it was their assumption that everyone coming here to live, came legally and became a citizen. Therefore, each citizen deserved the right to be represented and treated accordingly. To apply this Constitutional mandate to illegal immigrants is wrong – these lawbreakers should not have the same rights assured to the legal citizens of the United States. (I think this interpretation encourages cities and states to look the other way instead of enforcing the laws against illegal immigration – that way they have more “inhabitants” to count and get more government money and another representative in Congress!)

  2. Steve says:

    One of the questions asked on the census form concerns “race”. We are required to declare our race, a concept that the American Anthropological Association has declared meaningless. Here is their 1999 statement:
    “With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, … it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. […] Given what we know about the capacity of normal humans to achieve and function within any culture, we conclude that present-day inequalities between so-called “racial” groups are not consequences of their biological inheritance but products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances.”
    In a similar statement, anthropologist Jonathan Marks has stated:
    “By the 1970s, it had become clear that (1) most human differences were cultural; (2) what was not cultural was principally polymorphic – that is to say, found in diverse groups of people at different frequencies; (3) what was not cultural or polymorphic was principally clinal – that is to say, gradually variable over geography; and (4) what was left – the component of human diversity that was not cultural, polymorphic, or clinal – was very small.
    “A consensus consequently developed among anthropologists and geneticists that race as the previous generation had known it – as largely discrete, geographically distinct, gene pools – did not exist.”
    Given the above statements by scientists in the field, how can any layman reliably report his or her “race”?

  3. AT says:

    Does your race affect your use of federal highways? Is there a separate tax rate table depending upon whether your ancestors came from Europe or Africa? I think not. Counting heads can be accomplished by individual cities & towns and accumulated stats can thens be reported at a state level.

  4. Rita A. Gholson says:

    I totally agree with Janet

  5. Cheryl says:

    I understand and agree the importance of counting the population, and the necessity for tracking ages. Cannot understand, tho, why it’s necessary to get each person’s exact birthdate. Why is my statement of my own age not enough to plan services, etc ?

  6. Faye says:

    Can anyone answer this question for me? The census form I received is printed in English and Spanish only. WHY? What about the thousands and thousands of Vietnamese who flooded to this country after the war. What about Chinese, Russian, German, etc., many who are here legally? Why are they not counted? Will every census taker who visits a home be able to speak all these languages?
    I fully understand the problem that would arise in trying to print this document in all lnaguages and in mailing same to each household. Why English and Spanish ONLY?

  7. delru says:

    My husband, a war veteran, and I are EXTREMELY offended that the US Census chose to list “Hispanic” origin in a priority position on the questionaire, before all other races. First, if you’re Hispanic, second…are you any other race.
    We’re mad as H*** about everything in this country being centered around Hispanics!!!!!!!!!!!! How about listing ALL races, in alphabetical order, or at the very least, prioritizing the American Indian in first place???
    If this was a Mexico Census or Cuba Census, we would expect this question to be listed first. However, this is a US CENSUS – why are Mexicans listed first???? We’re sick of this racist and biased prioritizing covered under the blanket of “US Census”.

  8. Marva says:

    I agree with Janet and wonder why we aren’t determining how many U.S. Citizens we have versus “aliens” versus illegal immigrants. Since the census data is used in representation it seems only U.S. Citizens should be accounted for in making determinations and how we are represented.

  9. Why is the term “Negro” being included?

  10. zoe.ortiz@tenethealth.com says:

    How many generations do we have to skip until you can say you are of American origin. If you ask the question the way it is now “is this person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin” then you ask for the race “white,black,american indian asian, chinese etc. etc.” I would say there are no Americans in the United States except the American Indians. I was born in Latin America and I am of Hispanic origin but my daughters were born in the UNITED STATES are they of Hispanic origin? what about my grandchildren? what about my great grandchildren? could you answer the question.
    thank you for your attention to this matter.

  11. Zoe,
    Hispanic is an ethnicity, if you they are the same ethnicity as you, then most people would designate them as Hispanic. So yes, you can indicate that they are Hispanic on their questionnaire.

  12. Cathy Givens says:

    Why is white considered a race?

  13. Glenn says:

    “Caucasian”, “Negroid”, “Hispanic” and “Asian” are some of the many races. White, Brown, Black, etc, are colors. We are not colors. We are an ethnically diverse people. I was born in this country, as were my ancestors, back 5 generations on one side, and 3 on another. I think of myself as an AMERICAN, not as “British-American”, “African-American”, “Asian-American” or “Hispanic-American”. I agree with the previous comments… RACE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!!! And I too am totally disgusted by the fact that question #5 IN BOLD, places the Hispanic race above everyone else. If this isn’t a racist tact, then what is? This is foul play, folks! There was NO NEED for this question to even BE on the 2010 US Census. Who made this terrible decision to place this question on the Census, to word it in this way, and to situate it where it is? It is one thing to seek out the demographics of the nation, but it is quite another to foment the perception of inequality and racism, in our own homeland, on our own soil! SHAME ON YOU!!!

  14. Glenn,
    The Census Bureau collects race data as guided by the OMB statistical policy directive 15, OMB defines these guidelines for consistency across federal programs. The collection of race and Hispanic origin data is important and required. The Census Bureau collects race and Hispanic origin information in order to provide data required by various federal programs, laws and regulations.

  15. GCW says:

    What will you do if an individual fails to provide race data

  16. GCW,
    Household’s that send back an incomplete form will be visited by an enumerator. It costs the Census Bureau only $.42 to send back your questionnaire, it costs $57 per visit.

  17. Lettie says:

    Love your response. I agree that neither race nor origin belong in this Census count!!! I am an American, born & raised in the United States; I’ve worked and paid my taxes for over 50 years. I want to be counted as an American and not based off of my origins which are not confined to one ethnicity.
    The census website data states that the question regarding RACE has been requested since 1790. I would say this question is antiquated and should be removed due to the fact that it cannot be wholly accurate rendering it irrelevant.

  18. Lettie says:

    FYI on your comments by an IRATE American who happens to be of Spanish, French & Mexican Indian ‘origins’. The note above question 5 states, “For this census, Hispanic origins are not races.”
    This does not place “Hispanic” origin as a priority; if anything it stresses a ‘difference’ in a negative fashion. In addition, Question 6 regarding “RACE” requires an answer but does not offer a clear choice for Hispanics/Mexicans/Spaniards, etc. I called the Census Hotline to hear a recording on ‘Race’ which states among other things, “The concept of race reflects self-identification. It does not indicate any clear cut scientific definition that’s biological or genetic in reference; the data for race represents self-classification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify…..”
    I looked up the definition of “White” in reference to race and more than one defintion specifies: ‘people exclusive of European ancestry.’ Spanish and French meet the criteria, Mexican Indian does not. I cannot fully relate to any of the ‘races’ listed, yet, I’m obligated to do so to avoid a possible fine or a expensive visit from a Census representative.
    The constant need to stipulate race/ethnicity in the United States, the ‘melting pot’ on forms all over America–exasperates and sickens me. Discrimination cannot be undone by continuing the need to specify and categorize people of these UNITED States!

  19. Lettie says:

    Then why wasn’t Hispanic simply listed as a Race with the specific categories listed below similar to American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Other Pacific Islander? Would that not give the same results? Aren’t these other Races, tribes, Islanders, etc being specified to provide data for federal programs, laws & regulations?

  20. Tamie says:

    I’m confused as to the Census’ definition of “origin” and “race”. When will “American” be considered an origin? Maybe in the 1790’s, capturing someone’s origin, such as Germany, Sweden, Mexico, Spain, etc. may have been important considering the number of immigrants that were entering the United States; however, I do not see how it is relative now considering 95% of the people completing the census were born in America, therefore their origin is American, which is not captured.
    I have spoken to several friends that are Hispanic (which is a race that is not captured); however there parents were born in America, they were born in America and therefore they consider themselves as Americans, not Mexican Americans, so how do you expect them to answer question 8? Who do you expect them to answer question 9; White? What is the definition of “White”? Why is “Mexican American” considered an origin, but “African American” considered a race? How do you expect persons of mixed race to answer questions 8 and 9?
    Your origin is where you came from and your race is who you represent. And I think it is about high time the government starts capturing this information more accurately.

  21. EK says:

    I norice there is no room for an address and wonder how they
    know where the census form is coming from???

  22. ThinkAboutIt says:

    Census Staff,
    From a statistical perspective, wouldn’t it be more interesting to gather the ethnicity of all respondents, not just those of Hispanic origin? Although the OMB seems to want only the Hispanic origin data, don’t you think the Census could be all inclusive with its data collection?
    Also, if Hispanic is an ethnicity, then aren’t many of the selections under question 9 also ethnicities? Including Asian Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian, Filipino, Vietnamese and Samoan, which are also nationalities.
    Based on your inclusion of nationalities, most respondents could complete the “Some other race” category with “United Statesian” or “American.” But, that probably would not suffice and hence drive the cost of the Census up by $57 each.
    The Census/OMB definition of race and ethnicity is muddled, confusing and in many ways lacking. Which leads me to conclude any “Demographic Analysis” of the data will be lacking as well.
    I recall similar questions in 2000. Not much changed.
    Perhaps 2020 will bring some reasonability to the topic. You’ve got ten years. Think about it. Keep it simple and consider ALL those who are to respond.
    Best regards,
    A member of the Human race, who happens to be United Statesian

  23. EK,
    The barcode and census id is tied to an address.

  24. ThinkAboutIt
    the Census Bureau is required to collect race data as directed by OMB.

  25. Enrique says:

    Hispanics are not a race but are in the process of becoming one, even if properly “multiracial”. There are white, native and black Hispanics but the overwhelming majority are Multiracial. During the last 3,000 years Indo-Europeans and Veddas from India had a similar process of amalgamation and assimilation as the one taking place in most of Latinamerica. Hindi is an Indo-European language and Northern Indians are the result of the Aryan-Veddan mixture. Hispanics who answer “Some Other race” are Multiracial like the Indians from India, speaking both an Indo-European language.

  26. Heinz57 says:

    I totally agree and further it is unevenly applied. Asian designations are broken down into continental origin but Europeans are all White? And why is White still first? It presents itself in that instance as a document of dominance and a lot of biracial people find this a bit emotionally draining. We can do better.

  27. Gary says:

    While the debate around Race, National Origin, Ethnicity, Color, etc. continues, what about disability? Why isn’t one’s disability requested? That’s something that really does shape policy, procedure, practice, law, etc. in the US. How accessible are government-funded or government-conducted programs? How well does the Fed. government hire persons with disabilities (not at all well and it gets increasingly worse each year)? How accessible AND usable by persons with disabilities are public transportation systems, telecommunication systems, etc.? Half of (the garbage) what’s on television isn’t even captioned for Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons (except for the really stupid ‘reality shows’), let alone audio-described for persons who are blind or vision-impaired. EEO and Affirmative Action programs are supposed to include persons with disabilities as much as anyone else, but they don’t – and they don’t care. Anyone can become disabled and lose access to activities of daily living.
    Census Bureau staff tell me they only count nationally what’s of national or significant interest. People with disabilities apparently aren’t of national or significant worth.

  28. Gary, the Census Bureau does collect data on individuals with disabilities from three household surveys, the American Community Survey (ACS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and the Current Population Survey (CPS)
    For more information regarding data and the collection of data regarding individuals with disabilities, please visit http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/disability.html

  29. Cunningham says:

    My parents were born in Ireland and became nationalized citizens of the U.S. My skin color is white, I am fair-haired and have light blue-green eyes. My color is therefore white, my ethnic origin is Irish, and I am a citizen of the U.S. by birth. I also agree with the comment on disability, since this is an issue not associated with “race.” As an anthropologist, I also agree with the comments that the AAA did away with the entire concept of “race.” If ethnic origin is the real issue, then allow all respondents the opportunity to indicate the countries of their origins. My parents never considered themselves “Irish-American,” but would state that they were born in Ireland and were citizens of the U.S.

  30. Sabs says:

    My mother is a red-haired, green eyed, freckle faced Cuban woman. My father is a dark skinned Dominican man. My siblings have light skin and hazel eyes. My nieces and nephew have red hair like their Cuban and Irish grandmas. They can’t tan a bit, but they have Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Irish roots. My daughter has reddish hair like her Cuban grandma and brown eyes like her Dominican grandfather. Three out of four of my grandparents had a direct lineage to Europe (Spain). My grandmother has South American Indian blood. My husband’s ice blue eyes betray his Norse and European blood, mixed with Cherokee. I am American, my siblings are American, my parents are naturalized Americans, my daughter is American, my husband is American.
    The census insulted America’s intelligence. Can you really put such a diverse nation into neat little black, white, hispanic, Native American and Asian little boxes? Either let us fill in our own blanks or simply do not ask anymore.

  31. Jerold says:

    We need to know the Race, Because people using the statistics prefer to live with their own race. Like my Family we don’t want to move somewhere that the majority of the race is oposite of ours. We want to feel safe and comfortable. By knowing the race populaton then we know whether or not it will be a safer town or not. By the way, Segragation is natural to us we do it without laws that mandate it, Blacks go to black churches and live in hoods and go to black schools and black colleges. White folk live mainly in rural safe areas and go to white churches and attend white colleges. So yes race is important

  32. uranus says:

    complain, complain, you just elected a muslim in office that you were so blinded by his skin color that you dont know what you voted for except he looks black. So leave the white issue alone and if race wasnt so important to you then why does it matter? The Bilderberg just wants to know how to manage their population better I didnt participate in the census. it helps population control by george soros and the Bilderberg group.

  33. luke says:

    The census is always changing the order of their questions to make them more effective and the answers more reliable. According to the government hispanic is not a race an therefore cannot be included into the race section. do a little research before you make rediculous accusations like the u.s. is focused on hispanics. if you knew the history of hispanics in this country you would understand how rediculous you sound

  34. sickoftheignorance says:

    Are u seriously calling Obama a Muslim? Do you research before you repeat with Rush Littlebrain says. He is a Christian. Your statement just reinforces why they still ask for race on everything…America is still a racist country. Period. Whites are always telling people to go back where they came from when they are the largest group of immigrants (or rather thieves/refugees)! You stole this land from the natives and now want to claim dominance?! Que? But what goes around comes around, why don’t whites go back to Europe?

  35. Hello, My name Pastor Jacques Mervil pastor of Shalom center Ministry In Jacksonville Florida
    I need your help please. So, Can you help me find how many Haitian People who live In jacksonville Florida area, Please I will very appreciate that if you me have the list
    Thank you Very much
    May God Bless you

  36. Please go to this web page to get information about how the Census Bureau collects data on ancestry: http://www.census.gov/population/www/ancestry/anc-faq.html

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