Racial Ethnic Changes According to the Newly Released 2021 ACS 1-Year Estimates
MONDAY, SEP 26, 2022
The 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) single-year sample, the first release since the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, may contain population estimates that are deeply flawed, according to a Social Explorer analysis.
A comparison of the 2019 and 2021 ACS shows that the number of multiracial households in the United States grew from 11.3 million to 41.9 million. The non-Hispanic increase was roughly 6 million; the Hispanic increase was about 24.6 million. Americans have had the option to define themselves as members of more than one race since the 2000 Census.
The increase in multiracial Americans found in the 2021 ACS evidently was caused by the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to conduct a content analysis of the fill-in answers for the race and Hispanic question in the 2020 Census. If there were evidence of other races, the person was coded into that race, as well. The change was added to the ACS, as well.
The change leaves users with no way to know how many individuals in different racial and ethnic categories were shifted; there is also no data available to compare the 2020 methodology with the results of the 2010 Census.
“We have no way to interpret change in race and Hispanic status over time,” said Andrew Beveridge, president and founder of Social Explorer. “These numbers can’t be used for comparison purposes.”
Beveridge said the lack of ability to compare the race and Hispanic data will affect a number of sectors that rely on the data to monitor racial and ethnic disparities, including the criminal justice system; state and federal courts; agencies that allocate housing and housing subsidies; birth and death certificates; labor agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and the health system, including the federal Medicare and state-federal Medicaid programs.
“Having used the ACS in court many times to compare housing, employment or jury composition, as well as the operation of law enforcement with the underlying numbers derived from the ACS,” said Beveridge, “I am personally quite concerned. At minimum, the Census Bureau will need to offer a crosswalk that allows users to conduct meaningful comparisons of racial and ethnic data across time. As it stands, there are no good options for users.”
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