Factsheet: Adding a New Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census

Both Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, 1 have confirmed unequivocally that the Constitution requires a count of all persons living in the United States, regardless of citizenship or legal status, for the purpose of apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Nonetheless, lawmakers over the years have sought to add questions on citizenship and legal status to the decennial census. Most recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened by sending a letter to the Census Bureau, requesting a new citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Proponents of adding these questions offer several reasons to justify collection of these data from all households, none of which relate to the core purpose of conducting a census of all persons residing in the country. On March 26, Secretary Ross announced his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

A fair and accurate census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities, are among the most significant civil rights issues facing the country today. Every census since the first enumeration in 1790 has included citizens and non-citizens alike. Adding a new question on citizenship to the 2020 Census will disrupt preparations at a pivotal point in the decade, undermine years of research and testing, jeopardize the accuracy of the 2020 Census by deterring many people from responding, and increase census costs significantly.