Factsheet on the Census, Confidentiality and Japanese American Incarceration

The U.S. Constitution mandates a count of all persons living in the United States every 10 years. Unfortunately, each decade, some members of the public are reluctant to participate in the census based on fear of government and potential misuse of their responses. Lack of trust in the confidentiality of census data presents a major barrier to census participation, despite the survey’s mandatory nature.

This decade is no different. In fact, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ recent misguided decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, along with recent media coverage of the use of census data to target Japanese Americans for incarceration during WWII, has heightened fear and concern in many communities about participating in the 2020 Census. Fortunately, the current confidentiality protections are the strongest in federal law and should give people confidence that participating in the census is safe.