News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, Mar. 15, 2000, 10:00am EST
What you don’t know about Census 2000
- a public service message brought to you by BRAMA-Gateway Ukraine
Note: for the purposes of this article, terms such as Ukrainian ancestry, Ukrainian heritage and Ukrainian-American are replaced simply by "Ukrainian" – i.e., anyone with Ukrainian ancestry whether a U.S. citizen or not.
Did you know that two different versions (long and short) of the Census 2000 forms are being distributed by the U.S. Census Bureau? Did you know that the long form includes questions about your national heritage and primary language? Did you know that the short form, on the other hand, does not ask those questions? Did you know that those who receive the long or the short form are chosen at random, and that only 1 out of 6 households will receive the long form? This last question is the most relevant to the issue at hand.
There can be no doubt left by now on anyone’s mind about the significance of being counted in the census. We have all been hearing about the importance of participating in Census 2000 on television and radio news programs, reading about it in the newspapers, even seeing banners on the Internet. Of particular concern is the equitable distribution of tax dollars into communities that need them most -- if you’re not counted, the community loses some percentage of government funding as a result.
What we haven’t seen or heard is anything (or at least not much) about the importance of being counted as Ukrainians in America. By contrast, Russian language radio and local news publications (often acquiring paid ads from the Census Bureau, btw) in, for example, the Russian-speaking Brighton Beach area are blasting continuous community announcements about the census for the purpose of enticing as many entries by their target market as possible. Why? In order to make sure that these areas populated by Russian-speakers are allocated the optimum possible tax benefit.
Individuals in only 1 out of every 6 households have the opportunity to respond to questions related to their national heritage and primary language. The Census Bureau uses that 1 out of every 6 ratio to derive information about the rest of the population. Therefore, if 1 out of every 6 households with Ukrainian heritage receive the form, and everyone of them responds accordingly, then we can assume that Ukrainians living in America will be adequately represented in the final count.
But what if as a result of the random distribution 1 out of 6 Ukrainian households do not receive that long questionnaire? Ukrainians will lose representation. And what if some of those who do receive it choose not to participate? Ukrainians will lose yet more representation. Ukrainians as a political force, both on a nationwide level and locally, become even more marginalized than they have been in the past. Ukrainians living in tight ethnic communities, such as the Village in Chicago, stand to lose important funding for revitalizing their declining neighborhoods. Funding so desperately needed by recently arrived Ukrainian immigrants (and temporary visitors) will not be made available to them.
According to the Census Bureau, in New York City alone (!) as many as 500,000 people were missed in the 1990 census.
It is, in other words, absolutely essential for local community and media organizations to take on the task of convincing the Ukrainian public to fill out and submit whichever version of the questionnaire they received. It becomes doubly critical to make certain that everyone who received the long version participates and accurately fills out the form.
On the long form, question #10 asks, "What is this person’s ancestry or ethnic origin?"; question #11a, "Does this person speak a language other than English at home?"; #11b, "What is this language"; #11c, "How well does this person speak English"; and #12, "Where was this person born?" All of these questions are integral to pinpointing the ethnicities and other relevant characteristics.
Not one of the above questions is included on the short form received by 5 out of 6 households. The closest that the short questionnaire comes to asking about one’s heritage are a series of questions about race. Clearly, "Ukrainian" is not a race. However, in the Census 2000 FAQ it states the following:
I. How do I Answer the question on Race?
Each respondent decides his or her racial identity. For the first time ever, people with mixed racial heritage may select more than one racial category. The groups shown in the census race question can be collapsed into the minimum race categories needed by the federal government: "White," "Black or African American," "American Indian and Alaska Native," "Asian," and "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander." People who mark the American Indian or Alaska Native category are asked to provide the name of their principal or enrolled tribe. People who select the "Other Asian," "Other Pacific Islander," or "Some other race" are asked to write-in their specific race.
The above explanation may sound ambiguous at first: "Each respondent decides his or her racial identity." But that comment is followed by an unambiguous definition of race: "the census race question can be collapsed into the minimum race categories needed by the federal government: 'White,' 'Black or African American,' 'American Indian and Alaska Native,' 'Asian,' and 'Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.'" So, even if you choose to identify yourself as "Ukrainian" in the race field, it is likely to be ignored and converted to simply "White." Jessica, a helpful 1-800 census info employee, thought it would be a great idea (on short form #8) to select "other race" and write in "Ukrainian" instead of opting for "White" race. However, she was not able to confirm that the ancestry (as opposed to "race") would be noted as such in the census records.
We have posed 2 questions of our own to the Census Bureau:
1) Can a long form be used in lieu of the short form, and if so, where can the long form be obtained?
2) Will "Ukrainian", if written into the race field, be recorded in the census tallies or will it automatically be converted to "White"?
With respect to the first question we suspect the answer will be "no." Statistical studies generally demand a true random sample of a population – if the long form is deliberately chosen and submitted by any number of participants, the study will be considered biased and thus invalidated. As to the second, we suspect that the answer will also be "no," much for the same reason. Whatever the answers, you will read the update on Brama if received in time.
To sum up, we are back to square one, and encourage all those who received the long form to respond accurately and to be sure to mail in the questionnaire. There’s a lot riding on you.
Check the side panel for further information about the census and sample forms.
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