Census Reform:

Early Outreach and Decisions Needed on Race and Ethnic Questions

GGD-93-36: Published: Jan 28, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the development of the race and ethnic questions on the 1990 decennial census; (2) the quality of the race and ethnic data from the decennial census; and (3) the status of the Bureau of the Census' research programs for these questions for the 2000 census.

GAO found that: (1) the Census Bureau was not able to build the necessary consensus for its recommended version of the race questions for the 1990 census; (2) the final format of the race question was decided late in the decade after protracted debate and was contrary to the Census Bureau's initial recommendations; (3) the data from the 1990 race and Hispanic origin questions are generally of high quality; (4) Hispanics have difficulty classifying themselves by race; (5) non-Hispanics tend to skip over the Hispanic origin question; (6) the number of persons reported as other race continues to grow at a much faster rate than the total population; (7) federal decisionmakers are pressuring the Census Bureau to develop more current intercensal race and ethnic data; and (8) the Census Bureau's plan for developing race and ethnic questions for the 2000 census focuses on awareness of major issues regarding such questions and on open consultation and communication with interested parties, key customers, and representatives of racial and ethnic groups.

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