Posted on October 1, 2018

Trump Can’t Win the War on Demography

William H. Frey, New York Times, September 30, 2018

{snip} [Donald Trump’s] administration has followed through on that strategy with a proposal to add a question to the 2020 census asking about citizenship. If the question remains on the form, millions of households, particularly Hispanic and Asian-American, could skip the census, leading to an overrepresentation of white Americans during this once-a-decade count.


If it is added to the census form, the citizenship question will distort our understanding of who resides in the country. What this selective underenumeration will not do is make America’s growing racial minority populations disappear. The losers from this undercount include members of Mr. Trump’s older white base, who will suffer from lost investments in a younger generation, whose successes and contributions to the economy will be necessary to keep America great.

The demographic trends make this plain. America’s white population is growing tepidly because of substantial declines among younger whites. {snip}


{snip} Thanks to aging baby boomers, the older retirement-age white population will grow by one-third over the next 15 years and, with it, the need for the government to support Social Security, Medicare, hospitals and the like. Revenue for these programs will have to come from the younger minority population. If the census does not accurately count this population, then all the services that support children and future workers, such as public education, Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, will be shortchanged.


An in-house Census Bureau analysis based on 2010 survey data found that the inclusion of a citizenship question reduced the response rate among households that have at least one noncitizen individual. {snip}

Let’s assume that one in three people in Hispanic and Asian noncitizen households refuses to answer the census. If that’s the case, the Hispanic share of the United States population would drop by 2.1 percentage points (from 17.3 to 15.2 percent) and the total white population share would rise by 2.2 percentage points (from 62 to 64.2 percent).

This imbalance would influence congressional reapportionment, hurting large, immigrant-heavy states. It will also shape how congressional and state legislative districts are drawn, favoring rural and small areas at the expense of large metropolitan areas, since noncitizen households are far more prevalent in the latter.

The underenumeration of racial minorities would also misallocate billions of dollars in state and federal funds for housing assistance, job training, community development and a variety of social services that should be distributed on the basis of census counts. It would provide a faulty framework for surveys that will inform thousands of policy and business decisions, such as where to locate schools, hospitals, employment sites or retail establishments catering to different population groups, over the next decade.

{snip} But Mr. Trump’s supporters, and the country in general, must not ignore the generational dependency between older whites and younger minorities. Forcing an inaccurate accounting of who resides in the nation will have long-term negative consequences for everyone.