The 2020 Census May Be Dropping the Word 'Race'

The 2020 Census May Be Dropping the Word 'Race'

The U.S. Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask citizens about race, and one possible option is not using the term at all.

MORE: What Do Latinos Actually See As Their Race? New Report Says…

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, the Bureau will soon be sending test forms to millions of people that ask which "category" best describes them, rather than which "race" or "origin" they identify with. Items like white, Hispanic and black will count as categories. Census officials are also testing "Middle Eastern or North African" as categories.

The goal behind the potential name change is to make the form less complicated for those filling it out. 

“The problem with using the word ‘race’ is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from ‘origin,'” D'Vera Cohn, writing for Pew, said.

In a focus group, Census officials learned that some people consider the terms "race" and "origin" as the same, while others view race as skin color, ancestry or culture and origin as their or their parents' nationalities, a confusion that reflects a larger debate about what race, ethnicity, nationality, culture and identity really are.

PLUS: The Census Can't Fit Latinos Into a Race box -- and it's Causing Problems

If the “race” change is made, it wouldn’t be a first for the Bureau. In 1790, the year of the U.S.' first survey, respondents were not able to select a race -- that box was marked for them by Census workers. That changed in 1960. In more recent years, respondents were first able to select more than one race in 2000.