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Introduction and Background: United States Census

Introduction and Background

The United States Census Bureau (officially the Bureau of the Census) is a government agency under United States Department of Commerce. The Census Bureau is responsible for the United States Census. They are generally known for the decennial (every 10 years) count of people living in the United States. The Constitution of the United States (Article I, section II) directs that a population count be conducted at least once every ten years and the resulting counts used to determine the number of members each state will have in the US House of Representatives. State, city, county, and other local governments also used the census data for the redistricting of their government representation areas. The data also affects a range of government programs received by each state, since many programs are based on population size, racial composition, income distribution, and age distribution.

The first US Census was conducted in 1790. The first US Census conducted in the Hawaiian Islands was in 1900 when Hawai‘i was still a US Territory. All data collected is confidential, data on individuals or data which could be used to identify individuals is not released, although there have been cases in the past where the Census Bureau assisted other government agencies to identify and locate individuals and categories of individuals.

In addition to the decennial census, the Bureau conducts a number of other censuses, population estimates and projections. These other activities are conducted between and during decennial population counts. Among these include: American Community Survey (ACS), American Housing Survey, Census of Governments, Consumer Expenditure Survey, Current Population Survey (CPS), Economic Census (EC), National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, National Crime Victimization Survey, National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol Related Conditions, National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), Residential Finance Survey, Survey of Construction, Survey of Income and Program Participation, Survey of Market Absorption, and Survey of Program Dynamics.

NOTE: Native Hawaiian as defined by the US Bureau of the Census is derived from the responses on race in the Census questionnaire.

The concept of race as used by the Census Bureau reflects self-identification; it does not denote any clear-cut scientific definition of biological stock. The data for race represent self-identification by people according to the race which they most closely identify. Furthermore, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include both racial and national origin or socio-cultural groups.

Starting with the 2000 US Census, respondents are allowed to identify one or more races to indicate their racial identity. There are 15 check box response categories and 3 write-in areas on the Census 2000 questionnaire, compared with 16 check box response categories and 2 write-in areas in 1990 Census. The three separate identifiers for the American Indian and Alaska Native populations (American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut) used earlier have been combined into one category - - American Indian or Alaska Native - - with instructions for respondents who check the box to print the name of their enrolled or principal tribe. The Asian and Pacific Islander category has been split into two categories Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. There are six specified Asian and three detailed Pacific Islander categories shown on the Census 2000 questionnaires, as well as Other Asian and Other Pacific Islander which have write-in areas for respondents to provide other race responses. Finally, the category Some Other Race, which is intended to capture responses such as Mulatto, Creole, and Mestizo, also has a write-in area.

Other changes include terminology and formatting changes, such as adding “Native” to the Hawaiian response category. The term “Native Hawaiian” is now standard. In the layout of the Census 2000 questionnaire, the Asian response categories were alphabetized and grouped together, as were the Pacific Islander categories after the Native Hawaiian category.

For the 2000 Census and onward, as well as the American Community Survey (ACS) data is reported using different tabulation options. One option provides data on “race alone,” those who reported a single race category. The other option reports those who report a single category and those who reported multiple categories, “alone or in any combination.”

For Native Hawaiians, data is reported for “Native Hawaiian alone” and “Native Hawaiian alone or in any combination.” The responses are self-reported; if a person feels that “Native Hawaiian” best describes their identity, they are free to select “Native Hawaiian.” The response should NOT be interpreted that the person is of one race, i.e. full-blooded native Hawaiian, 100% Hawaiian blood quantum. The “Native Hawaiian alone or in any combination” reporting category includes all those who identified themselves as “Native Hawaiian” and those who identified themselves as “Native Hawaiian” and checked off one or more other races. Caution should be use in comparing those in the “alone or in any combination” categories since individuals can be counted multiple times. A person who identifies themselves as Native Hawaiian-Chinese-White, will be reported in the “Native Hawaiian alone or in any combination,” “Chinese alone or in any combination” and “White alone or in any combination” categories.