The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that it is dropping the word “negro” from its forms after some described it as offensive. The AP reports the term will be replaced next year by black or African American.
“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.”
The term was first used in the 1900 census. The Census Director’s blog made reference in 2010 to the fact that some people found the term “negro” offensive:
The category “Black, African Am., or Negro” was used in Census 2000, based on research in the late 1990’s 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 2000’s, 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.
Some of the commentary on the question comes from people offended by the term. I apologize to them. I am confident that the intent of my colleagues in using the same wording as Census 2000 was to make sure as many people as possible saw words that matched their self-identities. Full inclusiveness was the goal.
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