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Change to Citizenship Edits for People Born in American Samoa

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 legislates that people born in American Samoa are non-citizen U.S. nationals unless at least one of their parents were U.S. citizens. While the American Community Survey (ACS) is not collected in American Samoa, individuals from American Samoa who are living in stateside U.S. or Puerto Rico may be included in data collection for the ACS or Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS). The wording of the citizenship question and response categories for stateside decennial and ACS forms have not historically included explicit instructions for non-citizen U.S. nationals.

Internal data edit and processing procedures for citizenship in the decennial census and ACS/PRCS have always classified respondents who reported being born in American Samoa as U.S. citizens under the second response category “Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas." Consistent with these procedures, the help text for the ACS was amended in 2011 to add the instruction: "[a]lthough not listed, if the person was born in American Samoa, mark 'Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas' box."  The ACS Subject Definitions document also was modified to add that "People born in American Samoa, although not explicitly listed, are included in the second response category."

For 2018, it was decided that including U.S. nationals under the second response category in the citizenship question was not sufficiently supported by the specific wording of the question, as the question does not address the status of U.S. nationals. For this reason, edit and processing procedures have been modified to no longer assign individuals reporting their place of birth as American Samoa into the second response category for citizenship, and instructions for respondents will not include explicit directions as to which citizenship category to indicate. Valid citizenship categories for respondents from American Samoa are now “Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents,” “Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization,” or “No, not a U.S. citizen.” Researchers should note that this change may result in significant differences between the 2017 and 2018 citizenship distribution among those reporting their place of birth as American Samoa. Users should also note that pre-2018 data will not have edited assignments retroactively modified to reflect these changes.

Page Last Revised - October 28, 2021
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