ASA Partners on Amicus Brief Challenging Citizenship Question

The ASA, in partnership with the American Sociological Association (ASocA) and Population Association of America (PAA), filed an amicus brief October 29 for two lawsuits against the federal government over its inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The brief cites the three societies’ “unique interest in ensuring the integrity of the data generated by the 2020 census” and a deep concern “that an uncertain and untested change to that census will imperil the accuracy, reliability, and utility of a core tool for their research and decision-making.”

ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein made the following comment about the filing:

As three of the primary scientific societies with expertise in the execution and importance of the decennial census, we are very concerned about the untested addition of the citizenship question to the questionnaire and the lack of scientific justification for doing so. The additional question is likely to undermine the quality of the census data, which will potentially have wide ramifications for the decade to come. Census data determine representation in the US House of Representatives and inform allotment of federal assistance and a wide variety of economic, social, and other sectors, both public and private.

The ASA, ASocA, and PAA partnered in August to undertake a joint amicus brief, each designating a representative to work with a law firm employed on a pro bono basis. Thomas Louis represented the ASA in the writing of the brief. In addition to a long, distinguished career as a biostatistician, Louis served as associate director for research and methodology and chief scientist at the US Census Bureau from 2013–2015.

The ASA has a history of support for an accurate and fair census going back to 1840 and is proud to continue the tradition with the 2020 census. The ASA has been outspoken on the addition of a citizenship question, including when news surfaced of the proposal in January, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s announced the decision to include the question in March, and—most recently—in August during a Federal Register call for comments.