U.S. Census Bureau disputes claims of ‘white’ and ‘male’ default

U.S. Census Bureau disputes claims of ‘white’ and ‘male’ default
United States Census 2020 (Source: MGN)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The U.S. Census Bureau is disputing claims that if a person fails to fill out part of the 2020 census survey regarding race and gender, it will automatically default to ‘white’ and ‘male.’

Wednesday, in a letter to Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said the county’s Complete County Committee learned during its March 5 meeting that if a person declines to answer the survey’s questions regarding racial background and gender, that person would default to “white” and “male.”

The U.S. Census Bureau sent the following statement to WECT Thursday.

The census is about how you identify. It is important to note that questionnaires with incomplete information are still counted, but we highly encourage people to fill out the census as completely and accurately as possible. During final data processing if we still are still missing information there are several procedures that we use. In the 2020 Census we are planning to use administrative information, such as from some federal and state records or previous census responses, to fill in missing data. We may also use other information provided about the household or persons living in the household. As a last resort, we use statistical techniques to impute for missing responses. The only way to ensure we tabulate the choice that most closely aligns with how you identify is for you to respond.

Commissioner Barfield said Thursday he’s not convinced and believes the information shared by the census specialist in an open meeting is accurate.

“I spoke with the local representative,” Barfield said. “He said he’s received no follow up from anyone advising him of any errors in his statement. No one has asked him to change his comments. I’ve not been contacted as of yet by anyone.”

Barfield says he would like to see proof there is no automatic default should a resident not fill out the portion of the survey regarding race and gender. So far, he has not received a response from the director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

WECT tried to reach the census specialist who, according to Barfield, revealed the information about the race and gender-related default. He did not return our phones calls or emails.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.