Citizenship Question Nonresponse: A Demographic Profile of People Who Do Not Answer the American Community Survey Citizenship Question
When Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross Jr. issued a statement on March 26, 2018, requiring the Census Bureau to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census questionnaire, it stirred up a storm of controversy. Much of the discussion was about the impact the decision would have on response rates in the 2020 Census. The citizenship question planned for the 2020 Census is the same as the one currently asked in the American Community Survey (ACS). The context of the ACS and the decennial census are quite different, but analysis of the ACS citizenship question can shed light on potential responses to the citizenship question in the 2020 Census. Completing the decennial questionnaire is mandatory for everyone in the United States and participating in the ACS is mandatory for everyone who is randomly selected to receive it each year. This paper provides a descriptive analysis of the nonresponse rates to the citizenship question in the U.S. Census Bureau’s ACS.
This analysis shows that the nonresponse rate for the citizenship question on the ACS is much higher than the nonresponse rates for any of the other questions that will be on the 2020 Census questionnaire. In the 2016 ACS, the nonresponse rate for the citizenship question was 6.0 percent and no other question that will be on the 2020 Census questionnaire had a nonresponse rate higher than 1.8 percent.