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Director's Blog: 2015 National Content Test Results Released This Week

Fri Mar 03 2017
Written by: John H. Thompson
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This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2015 National Content Test Race and Ethnicity Analysis Report for the 2020 Census, which explored several promising ways to improve the census’ race and ethnicity questions so that they better measure our nation. These findings build upon our previous research, and are instrumental to improving respondents’ understanding of their options to report multiple race and ethnic groups, and see themselves as identified in the census.

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Many Americans view “race” and “ethnicity” differently than in decades past. For many years, we’ve conducted research on race and ethnicity, and had ongoing conversations with stakeholders across the country to understand how these views have changed and what it means for our census questions.

In 2008, we designed the 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE) – at the time, the most comprehensive research effort on race and Hispanic origin we’d ever undertaken. We discussed the findings from the AQE with many diverse groups, and we received valuable feedback on our research. Over the next several years, we developed new question designs that expanded on the AQE research and incorporated suggestions for improvements.

Throughout 2014 and 2015, we shared our updated research plans in a variety of public settings to get additional community feedback. This led to the 2015 National Content Test. Research findings from this test indicate that an optimal race and ethnicity question design would include elements, such as:

  • A combined race and ethnicity question, with detailed checkboxes for response.
  • Using “Race/Ethnicity” terminology.
  • A separate “Middle Eastern or North African” response category can produce high quality data.
  • New instructions to “Mark all that apply” (for paper data collections) or “Select all that apply” (for internet data collections).

The release of the 2015 National Content Test Race and Ethnicity Analysis Report is a critical milestone as we prepare to make the final decisions on the 2020 Census content, which we must submit to Congress by March 31, 2018. I encourage you to read the full report. I’m very pleased with the progress this research and feedback has made towards improving our understanding of how to collect the most accurate data about our nation.

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