ALEXANDRIA, Va.–()–The Population Association of America (PAA), a leading non-profit association of scientists who conduct demographic research, applaud the United States Supreme Court for their decision to strike the citizenship question from the 2020 United States Census and remand the question back to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In their 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts issuing the opinion, the majority held that it “cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given” by the administration for adding the question.

By doing so, the high court has affirmed the priority of achieving a count that is as accurate and complete as possible. Experts knowledgeable about the U.S. Census believe adding an untested question would likely depress response rates and increase costs for the Census Bureau.

“This is a win for the science behind the Census plain and simple,” PAA President John Casterline. “A scientifically accurate Census count means better data and the ability to provide more efficient and effective services to people across the country.”

But the fight is not over. While the Supreme Court held that it does not believe the voting-rights related justification that the Commerce Department offered, its decision rejected the proposition that it is impossible for Commerce to add a citizenship question. That means the department has another chance to justify its decision in the lower court.

An inaccurate count would potentially result in an inefficient allocation of over $800 billion in annual federal resources or more than $25 trillion over the upcoming decade, 2021 to 2031. Beyond that, Census data is used to determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and inform decisions for a wide variety of economic, social and other sectors, both public and private.

PAA argued for exclusion of the citizenship question on several grounds, including the fact that the question was unnecessary. The Census Bureau already collects citizenship data through the American Community Survey, which has been used to enforce the Voting Rights Act since the law’s passage more than 60 years ago.

Beyond that, the 2020 Census already faces growing challenges that could affect its success in achieving a complete count. These include cyber-attacks, natural disasters, poor access to broadband internet in many rural communities and the growing distrust of government. The citizenship question would have only exacerbated those challenges.

Americans can be grateful that the Supreme Court chose the side of science with its decision to exclude the citizenship question from the 2020 Census—a decision that greatly increases the prospects of fulfilling the constitutional mandate to count every person every ten years.


The Population Association of America (PAA) is a nonprofit, scientific, professional organization established in 1930 to support the scientific study of the human population. PAA members include demographers, sociologists, economists, public health professionals and other individuals interested in research and education in the population field. PAA membership has grown to 3,700 reflecting professional interest in the population sciences.


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