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Overview of Results of New Race and Hispanic Origin Questions in Census 2000

Jorge del Pinal, Elizabeth Martin, Claudette Bennett, and Art Cresce

KEY WORDS: race reporting, ethnicity reporting, split-panel experiment, questionnaire effects


In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget revised methods for collecting and reporting federal data on race and ethnicity, and the changes were implemented in Census 2000. The most publicized change was to allow respondents to report one or more races. In addition, the “Asian and Pacific Islander” category was split into two: an “Asian” category and a “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander” category. The Census Bureau obtained permission to include a “Some other race” category to be used by respondents who did not identify with any other race categories on the questionnaire. New standards suggested that the question on Hispanic origin be asked ahead of race. The Census 2000 mail short form introduced additional changes in question format and wording, including dropping examples from both race and Hispanic origin questions.

To evaluate the effects of the changes on race and ethnicity data, 1990 questions on race and Hispanic origin were replicated in an experiment during Census 2000. An experimental panel of 10,000 households was mailed a 1990-style short form. A control panel of 25,000 households received the Census 2000 mail questionnaire.

The first section of this paper summarizes the results obtained by the new race and Hispanic origin questions in Census 2000. The second section reports results of the experiment to show how differences between 1990 and 2000 short form questionnaires affected race and ethnicity data. The 2000-style questionnaire resulted in more complete reporting in both race and Hispanic origin items. Hispanics who filled out 2000-style mail questionnaires were more likely to report a general descriptor (e.g., “Hispanic,” “Spanish,” “Latino”) than those who filled out 1990-style questionnaires. Thus, the Census 2000 questionnaire resulted in loss of detailed information about Hispanic origins, probably due in part to the elimination of examples. Race reporting by Hispanics was also influenced by the design of the questionnaire, with more Hispanics reporting as White and fewer as Some other race in 2000-style forms. These confounding effects of questionnaire differences must be taken into account when comparing 1990 and 2000 census data.

CITATION: Jorge del Pinal, Elizabeth Martin, Claudette Bennett, and Art Cresce. 2002. “Overview of Results of New Race and Hispanic Origin Questions in Census 2000.” Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section (American Statistical Association):714-719.

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

Created: January 30, 2007
Last revised: January 30, 2007

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