Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 am - 12 pm

The California impact if 2020 Census includes question about citizenship status

The 2010 census form included separate questions about race and Hispanic origin.
The 2010 census form included separate questions about race and Hispanic origin.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 10MB

There are already questions surrounding how accurate the 2020 Census count will be, due to a severe lack of funding and heavy reliance on the internet for the first time in Census history – but a new push from the Department of Justice to add a question about citizenship status is raising even more concerns over participation.

The Census has not asked about its respondents’ citizenship since 1950, and critics say it would likely lead to a chilling effect in the participation of non-citizens and their relatives and, therefore, an incorrect count. This in turn could create inaccuracies in the allocation of federal government funds for state services like Medicaid and food stamps, as well as the redrawing of Congressional districts and reapportionment of seats – a consequence that would be especially significant in California, which is on the verge of losing a Congressional seat after the 2020 Census.

Supporters argue undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be counted toward Congressional seats anyway, and states should have access to that information if they want to apportion based on citizenship instead of residency.

And even though the official census day is set for April 1, 2020 – more than two years away – the Census Bureau has to turn in the final wording of its questions to Congress by the end of March this year.

Larry sits down with proponents of both sides to debate the issue.


James Copland, director of the Center for Legal Policy at The Manhattan Institute

Phil Sparks, co-director of The Census Project, a nonprofit network of organizations that use Census data in day-to-day operations to make decisions and advocate for policy changes; he was an associate director of the Census Bureau from 1996-1999 and held a temp job in graduate school as a census taker

Correction: A previous version of this segment said the last time the Census asked a question about citizenship was in 1960. It was actually last included in 1950. We have corrected the mistake.