Blog post by Elliot Lewis on 10/24/09
The 2010 U.S. Census is just around the corner, and the government’s made some changes to the census form in how it’s asking about race. I stumbled upon a sample 2010 questionnaire on the Census Bureau’s website. The differences between this form and the one used in 2000 are subtle and would probably have gone unnoticed had I not lived and breathed this issue in the course of writing Fade. (Scroll down to compare the two.)
In Fade, I make a big deal of the 2000 census for good reason. It was the first time in American history that multiracial people could check multiple racial categories on the census form and have our answers tabulated that way. Prior to 2000, when multiracial people attempted to mark more than one box, say “black” and “white,” or “white” and “Asian,” the Census Bureau would ignore the multiple check-offs and arbitrarily assign those individuals to a single racial group. That all changed in 2000 when the Census Bureau actually began recording the numbers of people who checked more than one category and the various racial combinations that they marked. (See my previous post if you want a further explanation of the numbers.)
Contrary to popular belief, the census form did NOT ask respondents to “check all that apply.” It drives me nuts when people refer to it that way, because in fact, there was no such language on the questionnaire. Instead, the form asked people to “mark one or more” based on what you “consider” yourself to be.
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