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Plans for Producing Detailed Racial, Ethnic and Tribal Data from the 2020 Census

April 27, 2022
Written by: Rachel Marks, chief, Racial Statistics Branch, Population Division; Nicholas Jones, director and senior advisor for Race/Ethnicity Research and Outreach, Population Division

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Data yet to come from the 2020 Census are on detailed racial, ethnic, and American Indian and Alaska Native tribal and village population groups — such as German, Lebanese, Jamaican, Chinese, Native Hawaiian, Mexican and the Navajo Nation.

The 2020 Census will produce data for more detailed groups than ever before because of improvements made to the questionnaire design and coding processes. These improvements enabled us to collect more detailed race and ethnicity data, including data for detailed White and Black or African American groups (such as German and Jamaican) for the first time through dedicated write-in areas.

In this blog, we describe our current plans for developing and releasing these statistics and plans for other statistics in the Detailed Demographic and Housing Characteristics File (Detailed DHC).

Rethinking the Detailed DHC

The Census Bureau had originally planned to produce and release statistics on detailed racial, ethnic and tribal groups along with data that combine characteristics about households and the people living in them as part of the Detailed DHC product. To better facilitate developing disclosure protections for these complex data, we will now separate the Detailed DHC product into three products:

  • Detailed DHC-A: This product will provide the population counts and sex and age statistics for approximately 370 detailed racial and ethnic groups and 1,200 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages. We’ve listened to feedback from data users and are prioritizing the release of these population counts and sex by age statistics for detailed racial and ethnic groups. We plan to release this product in August 2023.
  • Detailed DHC-B: This product will provide household type and tenure information for detailed racial and ethnic groups and American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages. The schedule for release of this product is still being developed.
  • Supplemental DHC (S-DHC): This product will provide data that combine characteristics about households and the people living in them. This includes data on population in households, including average household size by age and tenure, average family size, household/family type of people under 18 years and total population in households by tenure. These data provide more detailed information on households than users were able to access in earlier data products like the DHC.  We often call these “person-household join tables.”  The schedule for release of this product is still being developed.

We are developing the schedules for the Detailed DHC-B and the S-DHC and will continue to provide updates to the public on the About 2020 Census Data Products page. In the meantime, more information about specific tables planned for these three products is available in the March 2022 version of the 2020 Census Data Product Planning Crosswalk.

Below, this blog provides an update and tentative timeline to develop the 2020 Census Detailed DHC-A data product.

Developing the Detailed DHC-A

In Spring 2020, our team of experts on race and ethnicity data began working with a team of differential privacy experts on the Detailed DHC Differential Privacy work. Together, we worked for several months to develop analytical tools for evaluating the balance of confidentiality protections and accuracy when producing detailed race and ethnicity statistics.

Throughout the summer of 2020 and into the fall of 2020, our researchers evaluated data from the 2010 Census to explore how best to achieve that balance.

From winter through summer 2021, our researchers put Detailed DHC-A work on hold to review the 2020 Census data files needed to develop apportionment results and redistricting data.

Beginning in fall 2021 though winter 2022, our researchers resumed work on the Detailed DHC-A. We also reached out to the public for feedback on the Detailed DHC proposal to find out how they were using these data.

Gathering Feedback and Developing a Prototype for Detailed DHC-A

Developing and implementing confidentiality protections for the Detailed DHC-A data is complex. We have heard from data users and understand the critical need for statistics on detailed racial and ethnic population groups, and that such statistics must still protect the confidentiality of respondents’ data.

This spring and summer, we will continue developing and testing the Detailed DHC-A to incorporate data user feedback. Some data users have asked us to include places (cities and towns) and census tracts, so we’re evaluating the feasibility of adding those to the list of geographies already planned: nation, states, counties and American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian areas. As part of our ongoing development and testing, we’re  examining whether accuracy targets we set are being met.

The Detailed DHC-A will implement an adaptive design that will allow us to provide more detailed statistics for racial and ethnic groups with larger populations, while at the same time ensuring sufficient confidentiality protections. We are continuing to test the adaptive design, including implementing population thresholds, and will provide more updates later this year.

In January 2023, we will produce a prototype demonstration data product using 2010 Census data for the Detailed DHC-A.

We’re calling it a “prototype” because it will look a little different than the demonstration data for the Redistricting File and the Demographic and Housing Characteristics File (DHC) you may be familiar with. We plan to provide parameters and margins of error that data users could see in the 2020 Census data. We will use available 2010 Census data as a “proof of concept.” Once again, we’ll ask for public feedback and take that into consideration as we fine-tune the parameters and plans for the final 2020 Census Detailed DHC-A product.

We will continue to engage with data users, tribal leaders, stakeholders and partners and provide updates as they become available. Your feedback is a crucial part of the process, and we look forward to future discussions on the development of the Detailed DHC-A as we work to produce these statistics for our nation’s myriad detailed racial, ethnic and tribal populations.

We also continue to develop, test and engage with data users on the Detailed DHC-B and S-DHC. As our work progresses on these data products, we will provide updates as they become available on the About 2020 Census Data Products page.

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