A Census Mystery

Headline of the week:

Census Bureau statisticians and outside experts are trying to unravel a mystery: Why were so many questions about households in the 2020 census left unanswered?

Residents did not respond to a multitude of questions about sex, race, Hispanic background, family relationships and age, even when providing a count of the number of people living in the home, according to documents released by the agency. Statisticians had to fill in the gaps.

Reflecting an early stage in the number crunching, the documents show that 10% to 20% of questions were not answered in the 2020 census, depending on the question and state. According to the Census Bureau, later phases of processing show the actual rates were lower.

The rates have averaged 1% to 3% in 170 years of previous U.S. censuses, according to University of Minnesota demographer Steven Ruggles.

Gee, a real mystery: it’s almost like Americans are tired of intrusive government, and especially tired of the kind of questions tied to identity politics.

I recall the 2000 Census, when I got the long form and didn’t fill in a number of these kind of questions. A Census worker called me to fill in the blanks, and when I issued an objection to the race questions, the Census worker tried to sympathize and actually said that he hoped in 10 or 20 years we wouldn’t need to ask such questions. An obvious lie, akin to Justice O’Connor writing in 2004 that she expected that affirmative action would be obsolete in 25 years.

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