Controversy over providing special census tabulations to government security agencies in the United States: the case of Arab-Americans

Samia El-Badry, IDEA International Demographic and Economic Associates
David A. Swanson, University of Mississippi

The Census Bureau has provided specially tabulated population statistics on Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security, including detailed information on how many people of Arab backgrounds live in selected ZIP codes. Very much like the special tabulations the Census Bureau provided on the locations of ethnic Japanese after Pearl Harbor in 1941, ethnic communities became alarmed. The fear of “being rounded up” as was the case with Japanese –Americans who were interned in World War II, was on many minds because the information that the Census Bureau provided on ethnic Japanese in World War II was used in their roundup. In the eyes of some, the willingness of the US Census Bureau to provide this special tabulation on Arab-Americans is a breach of trust, while for others it is not. We examine this controversy from the standpoint of accurate data collection for the US Census and related surveys.

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Presented in Session 74: Demography, human rights and ethics