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Context Effects for Census Measures of Race and Hispanic Origin

Elizabeth Martin, Theresa J. DeMaio, and Pamela C. Campanelli



This paper reports on the results of a split-ballot experiment conducted in 1987 to test alternative versions of the decennial census long form. Two forms were randomly assigned and self-administered in group sessions involving a total of 515 respondents. The order of race and Hispanic origin items was experimentally manipulated. The standard long form asks race, then Hispanic origin. The experimental form reversed the order of the items in order to reduce perceived redundancy, and to create a more restricted frame of reference for the race item. The objectives of the context manipulation were (1) to reduce item nonresponse for the Hispanic origin item, and (2) to reduce reporting of "Other race" by Hispanics in the race item. Objective (1) was met. Objective (2) was met for Hispanics born in a U. S. State, but not for immigrants. The results are interpreted as reflecting a process of acculturation which affects how Hispanic respondents apply U. S. racial categories "White" and "Black" in the census.


Question Order, Questionnaire Design


Martin, Elizabeth, Theresa J. DeMaio, and Pamela C. Campanelli. (1990). Context Effects for Census Measures of Race and Hispanic Origin. Statistical Research Division Working Papers in Survey Methodology (#90-01). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Published online: February 8, 1999
Last revised:

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010