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Census won't count Iranians as a race.

The U.S. Census Bureau is frowning on efforts to convince Iranian-Americans and other ethnic groups to write in their ethnicity on this year's Census and expects the results will show low numbers, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the campaign.

A coalition of dozens of Iranian-American organizations has been urging Iranian-Americans to write in their ethnicity as the answer to Question #9 on the 2010 Census, which is now underway. Organizations in other ethnic groups have also been urging their people to write in their ethnicities.

Questioned by the Iran Times, the Census Bureau said it will not tabulate the number of people who write in "Iranian" or "Iranian-American"--or any other ethnicity--on their Census forms this year--but would be willing to tabulate them later, after its work to process the 2010 Census results is completed.

The Census Bureau statement to the Iran Times said Question #9 on the Census form is intended only to elicit information about race, not about ethnicity. Therefore, it said, anyone who writes in "Iranian" or "Iranian-American" on the race question will be classified as "White" for purposes of the Census.


But the Census Bureau said it does have separate codes for some entries that may be written in as a response to the race question. Among those groups that can be catalogued are "Polish," "Armenian" and "Iranian."

For those groups for which the Census Bureau has codes, including "Iranian," the Bureau said, "It will be possible to request a special tabulation of those responses after the 2010 Census." The Census Bureau did not give a date for when it will finish all its 2010 Census work, but that may not be until 2012 or even later.

More importantly, however, the Census Bureau downplayed the usefulness of such a tabulation and said it would almost certainly produce a low number. It pointed out that Question #9 asks for race and said many people will check the box for "White" and not even go down the few more lines where they could write in "Iranian." Therefore, the Census Bureau said, "The special tabulations may under-represent the particular ... ethnic group."

Yet, the entire point of the effort to convince Iranian-Americans to write in their ethnicity is to produce a higher number. The 2000 Census showed there were one-third of a million Iranians in the United States, which many in the community believe is nowhere near an accurate count. Many Iranian-Americans believe there are on the order of 1 million Iranians living in the United States.

The Census Bureau pointed out that it collects ethnicity data through its "ancestry" questions that are part of the American Community Survey (ACS). This is an annual survey conducted among a subset of the population. The ACS collects much more data than the decennial census, but does so by surveying tens of thousands of families in depth rather than by trying to reach every single household with a mere 10 questions, as in the 2010 Census.

Census forms with 10 questions for each resident where mailed to every household last month and should now be mailed back to the Census Bureau. Beginning next month, Census counters will make in-person visits to the homes from which no Census form was returned. Everyone living in the United States, whether a citizen or not, is required to respond to the Census.
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Title Annotation:Commentary, text and context
Author:Nelson, Warren L.
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Apr 9, 2010
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