Question 9 on the first page of the 2010 Census form. After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in its surveys. Instead of the term, which was popularized during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use “black” or “African-American.”
by Tanya Ballard Brown
The Census Bureau announced Monday that it would drop the word “Negro” from its forms, after some described it as offensive. According to the Associated Press, the term will be replaced next year by black or African-American. From the AP:
“The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said in an interview.”
AP reports that the term was first used in the 1900 Census, and back in 2010, a bureau public information officer told us that the word had been on Census forms since about 1950.
But the bureau and the Census Director’s Blog decided to tackle the issue after many African-American people complained about it during the 2010 Census.
“The category ‘Black, African Am., or Negro’ was used in Census 2000, based on research in the late 1990s that showed there was an older cohort of African-Americans who self-identified as ‘Negro.’ Surprisingly, about 56,000 persons took the time to write in under the ‘some other race’ category the word ‘Negro.’ Above half of them were less than 45 years of age in 2000.
“The Census Bureau didn’t do any research on the respondent reaction to the word ‘Negro’ in the 2000s, but did do tests that showed answers to the ethnicity and race questions tended to change depending on the order of the questions. I think some research on the sensitivity of answers to the presence of ‘Negro’ should have been done last decade, but I am unaware of what limitations there were on the research program then.”
We asked readers what they thought about it at the time, and it was tight. But about 53 percent of those who answered our question seemed to find it OK.
However, Census Bureau research and public feedback turned up different results, so moving forward “Negro” will not be an option.