GOP Strategist Thomas Hofeller was a long-time advocate for adding a citizenship question to the U.S. Census, as a tool to help the Republicans draft extremely gerrymandered maps to block Democratic voters. Before his death last year he pushed hard on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add the question to the upcoming 2020 Census. Secretary Ross has done just that, and insists his decision has nothing to do with politics.
Researchers of all political persuasions have warned that such a citizenship question would result in a serious undercount of Americans. Lest you’re thinking “Who cares?” the implications on research and U.S. companies would be profound.
Census data informs decisions that business owners of all sizes make on a regular basis regarding the products they produce and how they sell them. It also helps businesses make decisions as to where they build factories, where they open stores, and how much they will expand.
One indicator of the consequences of this decision, now before the Supreme Court, is that Nielsen has filed its own brief in the case. According to NPR, businesses as diverse as Levi Strause, Univision, and Uber have all expressed concern about the implications of adding this question to the census. Numerous other major brands, including Procter & Gamble and the J.M. Smucker Company, are making plans to promote participation in order to ensure a full count.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the question within the next few weeks. But no matter what happens, the driving forces behind this initiative deserve to be forever enshrined in the Measurement Menace Hall of Shame for despoiling (or trying to) the most important database in the United States. ∞