Middle Eastern and North African Americans In the 2020 Census

Why is the 2020 Census important?

The decennial census is the most inclusive civic activity in our country, covering every person in every household. The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation’s population every 10 years. Moreover, the census is integral to our democracy. The data collected affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental and private sector resources for all Americans, including across racial and ethnic lines. Census results are used to allocate seats and draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, and local boards; to target more than $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities, and families; and to guide community decision-making affecting schools, housing, health care services, business investment, and much more. These functions depend on a fair and accurate census.

Unfortunately, certain population groups — referred to as “hard-to-count”— are at a higher risk of not being fully counted in the decennial census. Some of these groups have been historically underrepresented in the decennial census for decades; some may experience new or increased vulnerability due to major changes in methodology, such as relying on the internet as the primary way for households to respond to the 2020 Census; and some may be reluctant to respond due to concerns about data confidentiality. Being hard-to-count can lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital public and private resources for these groups and their communities.

What are the hard-to-count characteristics of the MENA community?

In past censuses, the MENA identity has only been listed as an example under the “white” racial category, if at all. Because of this, the full breadth of the MENA community is unknown and likely undercounted. Arab Americans comprise the majority of the projected MENA population. For the purposes of this fact sheet, data on Arab Americans from the 2016 ACS 1-Year Estimates are used as a rough proxy for the MENA community.

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