ethnic minorities. Since the mid-1960s, this increased knowledge about the nation's policies and programs and their importance in these undercounts have contributed to increasing efforts and spending to improve the census. Data on race and ethnicity are involved, directly and indirectly, in most of the concern and contention about costs and quality of the 2000 census.
Two difficult issues have arisen with respect to the need for data on race and ethnicity in the census (see Statistics Canada and the Bureau of the Census, 1993, for an international review of census data on ethnicity).1 One is the growing public pressure for revising and expanding race and ethnicity classifications in the census as the nation becomes more diverse. The other is increasing recognition of the fluidity and accompanying ambiguity of racial and ethnic identities for many people. These issues have been brought to the fore with the reliance of the census on self-identification of race and ethnicity, which began in the 1970 census. Self-identification has been viewed as an improvement over the historically discriminatory methods of designation, such as blood quantum and observer identification. These older methods carried the presumptions that a certain amount of ancestry determined a person's racial or ethnic identity, that an observer could identify a person's race and ethnicity, that only one identification per respondent is appropriate, and that a person has the same identity in all situations in his or her lifetime. These presumptions are increasingly problematic with self-identification, especially at a time of growing heterogeneity of the American population, due not only to more diverse immigration but also to increased interracial and interethnic marriages. Moreover, self-identification in the census is not the same as in other surveys or on various types of forms. In the census, it is typically one member of the household who identifies his or her own race and the race of all other members of the household. The design of future censuses must take account of these issues.
The panel believes that underlying these important issues is a much more basic concern regarding the role of race and ethnicity data. In particular, there are inconsistencies between race and ethnicity categories required for legislative and administrative purposes and the census categories of race and ethnicity, which were designed for statistical purposes. Courts have already begun to litigate the classifications because of the discrepancy between the different conceptual approaches of the law and statistics. The legal approach views individuals as potential members of protected classes, as defined by statutes and judicial decisions. The statistical approach reflects an effort to provide a comprehensive demographic profile with data that may extend beyond legal considerations. The two approaches must be reconciled before the technical questions of questionnaire design, question placement (short or long form), and labeling of groups can be solved.