Statement from SSRC President Alondra Nelson

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) stands with fellow social science organizations in opposition to the administration’s intention of including a question related to citizenship status in the 2020 census, and echoes their concerns that a citizenship question will cause many individuals not to respond to the census or to do so inaccurately.

Accurate US census data informs rigorous social science research that in turn empowers communities and civic leaders at all levels of government to make more-informed policy decisions. Inaccuracies within the census can affect everyone in this country through future decisions in education, transportation, public health, public safety, social services, economic investment by the private sector, and more. The deep concern of the SSRC over inclusion of a question related to citizenship stems from the Council’s long history of research and writings on the conduct of the census, as well as the fact that including an untested question in the 2020 census belies the tenets of rigorous social science.

An accurate census is mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution, the guiding document that gives Congress the power to determine how each census is conducted. Members of Congress who share our concern are already putting forth legislation to bar the inclusion of a citizenship question. We urge Congress to work together to pass legislation strengthening the accuracy of the 2020 census data so fundamental to many sectors of society.

The SSRC rejects inclusion of a citizenship question, not only for its potential impact on the bedrock role accurate US census data fulfills in rigorous social science research—essential to fostering understanding and improving human well-being—but also for the possible adverse effects inaccurate data will have on the nation’s security, economy, and our democracy itself.

Alondra Nelson
President
Social Science Research Council