Census 2020

Census 2020:
Race and Whose Story "Counts"

April 19, 2018

Prince George's Room, Stamp Student Union

University of Maryland, College Park, MD


On April 19, 2018, the Center for Global Migration Studies hosted Census 2020, an interdisciplinary conference exploring the role of racial categorization in the upcoming census. These categories will determine which Americans will be counted. While the term “census” evokes images of government “bean counters” and data specialists, this conference draws attention to the critical ways in which the Census can be viewed as a critical and on-going racial formation project.  The Census has long determined how the state apportions political power as well as the distribution of good and resources across the population, from language-assistance to health services to school construction.  In the past, the Census has undercounted communities of color, low-income persons, and rural persons. Conference participants discussed how racial categories are created, how they reflect the politics of contemporary and historical America, and how they shape the experiences of citizenship, identity formation, and belonging.

The conference featured two panels and a keynote address. Melissa Noble, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivered a keynote address that put the racial categories in the U.S. census in historical and international perspective.

This event was co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities; Asian American Studies; Department of Anthropology; Department of Government and Political Science; Maryland Population Research Center; Department of African American Studies; U.S. Latina/o Studies; Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity; Latin American Studies Center; Department of Sociology; the Center for American Politics and Citizenship; and Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy.


Thursday, April 19

9:30 am
Breakfast and Introductory Remarks
Julie Greene, Co-Director, Center for Global Migration Studies, University of Maryland

10:00 am
Session One: New Census, New Conflicts
Moderator: Janelle Wong, Professor of American Studies, University of Maryland

Terry Ao Minnis, Director of Census and Voting Programs, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Samer E. Khalaf, President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, NALEO Educational Fund

12:00 pm
Lunch Break

1:00 pm
Session Two: Racial Anxieties and the Census
Moderator: Oscar Barbarin, Chair of the African American Studies Department, Univresity of Maryland

Carolyn Liebler, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

Stella Rouse, Director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship, University of Maryland

D'Vera Cohn, Senior Writer/Editor, Pew Research Center

3:00 pm
Keynote: "Shades of Citizenship Revisited: The Persistence of Racial Politics and Census-Taking"
Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Conference Participants

Oscar Barbarin

Oscar Barbarin is Chair and Professor of the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland. His research has focused on the social and familial determinants of ethnic and gender achievement gaps beginning in early childhood. He has developed a universal mental health screening system children pre-k to-8. He was principal investigator of a national study whose focus is the socio-emotional and academic development of boys of color.

D'Vera Cohn

D'Vera Cohn is a senior writer and editor at Pew Research Center. She studies and writes about demographics in the United States, especially the census. Cohn was a Washington Post reporter for 21 years, mainly writing about demographics, and was the newspaper’s lead reporter for the 2000 census. Before joining Pew Research Center, she served as a consultant and freelance writer for the Brookings Institution and Population Reference Bureau. She is an author of studies on the marriage and birth rates in the United States, migration between the U.S. and Mexico, and U.S. population projections.

Julie Greene

Julie Greene is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park with particular interest in the history of labor, the working-class, and immigration. Her most recent book, The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal, focuses on the tens of thousands of workingmen and workingwomen who traveled from all around the world to live and labor on the canal project. She is founding co-director of the Center for Global Migration Studies.

Samer E. Khalaf

Samer E. Khalaf Samer E. Khalaf is the National President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He received his BA in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his JD with a Certificate in Law and Public Policy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Since 2006, Khalaf has been a member of the Board of Directors of The Arab-American Family Support Center and served as its Board Chair. He also served as a member of the Arab-American Institute (AAI) National Policy Council and is the co-founder and co-chair of the NJ Arab-American Democratic Caucus.

Carolyn Liebler

Carolyn Liebler is a Professor of Sociology and member of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. Liebler's research explores the translation of individuals' racial identities into their answers to standardized questions about race, as well as the ways in which these answers are grouped to form the statistics used by social scientists, a process complicated by dynamic identities, questionnaire wording, and place-specific social history. In collaborations with Census Bureau researchers and using linked census data, she has recently shown that substantially more Americans have fluid responses to questions about race than was previously thought.

Terry Ao Minnis

Terry Ao Minnis is Director of the census and voting programs for Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC). Terry co-chairs the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Census Task Force and sat on the U.S Department of Commerce’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee from 2002 through 2011. She has published several articles, including “When the Voting Rights Act Became Un-American: The Misguided Vilification of Section 203” (Alabama Law Review). Terry holds a law degree, cum laude, from American University’s Washington College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in economics at The University of Chicago.

Melissa Nobles

Melissa Nobles is Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nobles' current research is focused on constructing a database of racial murders in the American South, 1930–1954. Working closely as a faculty collaborator and advisory board member of Northeastern Law School's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice law clinic, Nobles has conducted extensive archival research, unearthing understudied and more often, unknown racial murders and contributing to several legal investigations. She is the author of two books, Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics and The Politics of Official Apologies. Her work has also appeared in the Annual Review of Political Science, Daedalus, American Journal of Public Health, and several edited books.

Stella Rouse

Stella Rouse is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics and director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland. Rouse's book, Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence, published by Cambridge University Press, was named by Huffington Post as one of the "Best Political Science Books of 2013." She is a native of Colombia. When she was two years old, her parents immigrated to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where she grew up. Rouse fluently speaks, reads, and writes Spanish.

Arturo Vargas

Arturo Vargas is the Executive Director of NALEO Educational Fund, a national nonprofit organization that strengthens American democracy by promoting the full participation of Latinos in civic life. He also serves as the Executive Director of NALEO, a national membership organization of Latino policymakers and their supporters. Vargas is a nationally recognized expert in Latino demographic trends, electoral participation, voting rights, the Census, and redistricting.

Janelle Wong

Janelle Wong is Professor of American Studies and a core faculty member in the Asian American Studies Program. Wong is the author of Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions and co-author of two books on Asian American politics. The most recent is Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and their Political Identities, based on the first national, multilingual, multiethnic survey of Asian Americans. She was a Co-Principal Investigator on the 2016 National Asian American Survey, a nation-wide survey of Asian American political and social attitudes. Her current research is on growing numbers of Latino and Asian American evangelicals and their role in U.S. politics.

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