Census 2010 and the Foreign Born: Averting the Data Crisis
This policy brief examines the implications of the Census Bureau’s proposed discontinuation of the “long-form” questionnaire in 2010 for data and research on the foreign born population in the United States. Focusing primarily on the critical role that the Census Bureau plays in providing data on immigrant populations, this brief presents four key recommendations to enhance the data available on the foreign born.
The brief finds that without a renewed commitment by Congress to sufficiently fund the American Community Survey (ACS), the discontinuation of the Census Bureau’s “long-form” questionnaire will have dire consequences for immigrants, communities, and states that increasingly rely on detailed data for sound planning and research. In fact, the brief finds that this proposed discontinuation has occurred at the precise moment when the sheer number and diversity of immigrants is at its peak and amidst dramatically changing patterns of migration and settlement. Although the Current Population Survey (CPS) offers information on the foreign born, the brief finds that its reliance on a relatively small sample size renders it inadequate for research on specific immigrant groups and small geographic areas.
Based on these finds, the brief offers four recommendations: that the federal government be prepared to provide full and continuous funding for the ACS; that key questions in the census, ACS, and CPS questionnaires be added and/or altered to increase the breadth of information they provide; that changes be made to improve the quality and analytical value of the data contained in surveys such as the CPS and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP); and that the Census Bureau establish a department for which its sole focus is on migration statistics.