The recent supreme Court ruling on the census citizenship question creates an opportunity to ask what the rational response might be.
Pundits and other self-appointed experts have assumed (for their own purposes) that this ruling goes against the conservatives, but this assumption is driven much more by the pundits need for turmoil than by the facts. Because the administration has come out in full opposition, the issue has been seriously compromised by the politicians of all stripes, who serve neither conservative nor progressive principles, but rather, serve their Democratic and Republican party pundits, fear-mongers and campaign advisors.
A fair attention to the sensibilities of our fellow politically oriented friends requires that we seek to understand the actual issues, rather than that we merely acquiesce to these loud speakers who are compromised by their interests.
First, the basic requirements of the founding document, the Constitution of these United States, requires that Congress carry out the census in “such a manner as they shall by Law direct.” This leads to Title 13 — Census, as passed in 1954, which stipulates that the Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce, which is charged with forwarding to Congress the questions to be asked. The deadline for this notification is two years in advance of the census.
In the past there have been many questions added and removed from the census — including the now politicized question of citizenship.
What in the past was seen as an innocuous question is now charged with overtones, and rightly so. The political overtones involve an awakening awareness that it may not be fair to all if we do not know how many people are actually in a region. This is the simplest explanation for why the citizenship question is political — as the left’s worst case estimate is that up to four million people will not fill out the forms for fear of giving themselves away. With about seven hundred thousand people per Congressional representative, this is almost six fewer representatives, and both parties seem to think these would be all Democratic representatives — which is a politically convenient but unproven, and likely false assumption. But clearly some uninformed low level “GOP gerrymandering strategist” (per Axios.com) thought the count could be suppressed by including the citizenship question.
A secondary political reason for wanting the undercount could be related to not wanting tax funds to be distributed to provide social services to non-citizens, since the census counts are also used to allocate funding for Federal social programs.
However, backing away from the purely political issues — and they are political precisely because the party you align with is almost certainly a predictor of which side you are on — we could ask what real issues should drive this. There are three clear needs for data. First, per the Constitution, we need a simple count. Any count is going to be off because not all people will be contacted, and there are standard techniques the Census applies to adjust for undercounts. Second, we need to estimate the proportion who are citizens, because one use of the data is to help with voter count estimates used mostly for statistical evaluations after the fact of an election. Third, we need demographic data that is used to power all sorts of analyses that seem primarily to be used to identify and power special interests in their pursuit of government funding.
So, putting aside the politics of the headlines, we can assume that the statisticians behind the counts will adjust the numbers regardless of whether we include a citizenship question. A complete count without the citizenship question will result in a more accurate count, and we will estimate after the fact both the proportion of the population that was missed (there will still be a natural undercount) and what the proportion of citizens is in that more accurate count. The Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC) will certainly provide a very accurate estimate of the proportion of citizens for our use.
All of this number crunching would have happened quietly, and in the background, driven by armies of visor-wearing bean counters, had the politicians not decided to use even the simple counting of population to engender fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the people, all in the interest of creating the turmoil and strife needed if they are to be able to squeeze us for fear-driven political contributions.