We ask a question about a person's ancestry or ethnic origin to create statistics about ancestry groups in America.
Local, state, tribal, and federal agencies use data about ancestry to plan and evaluate government programs and policies to ensure that they fairly and equitably serve the needs of all groups. These statistics also help enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination in society.
We use your confidential survey answers to create statistics like those in the results below and in the full tables that contain all the data—no one is able to figure out your survey answers from the statistics we produce. The Census Bureau is legally bound to strict confidentiality requirements. Individual records are not shared with anyone, including federal agencies and law enforcement entities. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with anyone—not the IRS, not the FBI, not the CIA, and not with any other government agency.
We ask one question about a person's ancestry to identify the ethnic origins of the population.
We compile the results from this question to provide communities with important statistics to measure the characteristics of ethnic groups and tailor services to accommodate cultural differences. You can see some of these published statistics here for the nation, states, and your community.
We ask about ancestry in combination with information about housing, voting, language, employment, and education, to help governments and communities enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination based on national origin. For example, ancestry data are used to:
Researchers, advocacy groups, and policymakers are interested in knowing whether people from different backgrounds have the same opportunities in education, employment, voting, and home ownership. For example, ancestry data are used with age and language data to address language and cultural diversity needs in health care plans for the older population.
The question about a person's ancestry originated with the 1980 Census. It was added to the ACS in 2005 when it replaced the decennial census long form.