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Motivating Non-English-Speaking Populations for Census and Survey Participation

Nancy Bates and Yuling Pan



To meet the growing demand of including non-English-speaking populations in the U.S. Census Bureau decennial censuses and demographic surveys, the Census Bureau has recently expanded its effort to produce survey materials in multiple languages. This effort is reflected in the recent translations of the American Community Survey (ACS) letters and information brochures into ten non-English languages. These survey materials provide important informed-consent messages about the ACS.

Cognitive testing of the translations of these documents with respondents of the target languages has shown that some informed-consent messages were not well received by or not effective for the target populations. We intend to gain further understanding on this issue. In this current study, we will use data collected from the Census Barriers Attitudes and Motivators Survey (CBAMS) conducted in 2008 to inform the Census 2010 communications campaign. The CBAMS was a multi-mode survey that oversampled hard-to-count populations, including Census tracts that contained a large proportion of non-English-speaking households. The CBAMS measured constructs such as Census knowledge, attitudes and awareness; self-reported propensity to participate in the Census; ranking of potential Census messages; barriers and motivators to participation; and consumption of mass and social media.

In this paper, we focus on four groups: English-speaking Hispanics, non-English-speaking Hispanics, English-speaking Asians, and non-English-speaking Asians. We will compare their responses to four series of questions: (1) intent of Census participation, (2) Census awareness, (3) legal requirement for the Census, and (4) knowledge of Census data uses. We will examine if the four groups are similar or different on these issues.

The purpose of this study is to advance the qualitative research previously conducted and to better understand what motivates non-English-speaking populations to participate in the Census. Results will also help to develop more effective Census Bureau documents to encourage Census and survey participation from non-English-speaking populations.


Bates, Nancy and Yuling Pan. (2010). Motivating Non-English-Speaking Populations for Census and Survey Participation. Statistical Research Division Study Series (Survey Methodology #2010-08). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

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

Published online: August 20, 2010


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