The 2010 Census and Puerto Ricans: Statistical Policy Issues and Politics
Presenter: Angelo Falcón, President, National Institute for Latino Policy
The 10-year U.S. census has been very controversial among Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans, said Angelo Falcon, president of the non-profit National Institute for Latino Policy. Speaking at Centro recently, Falcón said that Latinos often found the form confusing because many questions were vague; the form was unavailable in Spanish until this year; and the section on race did not offer “Latino” or “Hispanic” as choices.
Falcon explained that the census form defines race as either: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander, Other Race “Latino” or “Hispanic” is seen as an ethnicity, not a race. That, he said, left many Puerto Ricans and other Latinos confused on what to check. And while Puerto Ricans are all citizens, many other Latino groups fear that answering the census could affect their immigration status As a result, Latinos were always undercounted, particularly the Puerto Rican community, he said. The undercount, he noted, should improve because the 2010 census will be the first one that features a bi-lingual version.
Hispanics, including Falcon, president of the non-profit National Institute for Latino Policy, have been working hard to address these issues. While there have been some successes, Falcon said that change in the census is slow. Every change must be approved by the U.S. Congress, but the changes often don’t get addressed because the census is seen as a low-priority issue. The Obama administration attempted to have the director of the U.S. Bureau of the report directly to the White House rather than to the commerce secretary, as is customary, but Republicans succeeded in quashing the attempt by arguing that Democrats wanted to manipulate numbers for political gain.
An interim survey, the 2008 community population survey , indicated that there were 4,030,000 stateside Puerto Ricans, 33% under the age of 18; Puerto Ricans had an unemployment rate of 10; and 18% of Puerto Ricans are without health insurance. The survey also indicated that 25% of Puerto Ricans fall under the poverty line, the highest rate of all Latinos. Additionally, only 39% of Puerto Ricans are homeowners.
Falcon said that the census bureau is extensively pushing the importance of the 2010 census and has been awarded more than $400 billion in federal funding to promote it. More than $450 million will be spent on an advertising campaign and $28 million on a Spanish-language campaign. But this new bi-lingual census form will only be sent out to targeted areas using the American Community Survey (ACS) to find heavily Latino neighborhoods. Falcon also mentioned that the Spanish slogan for the bi-lingual census is “Facíl , Seguro, Importante” (“Easy, Secure, and Important”). The new census reportedly asks only ten questions and should only require a total of ten minutes to complete, however, he pointed out it is ten questions for each person in the household.
According to the Constitution all persons, regardless of their citizenship, must be counted, Falcon said. So, undocumented immigrants also will be targeted in the new census by emphasizing confidentiality and reassuring them that the census has nothing to do with immigration.
By Amanda Bermudez