What is Your Race? The Flawed Effort of the Census to Classify Americans

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Kenneth Prewitt, Columbia University, discusses the racial classification system used in the 2000 Census was not well designed to help our society address the public policy challenges of the next century. He states that race classification originally stemmed from racist ideologies that did not lose their influence until at least the late 1960s. Landmark legislation of the 1960s and 1970s utilized the same classification categories, this time to combat discrimination in education, health care access, employment, and political participation. He said that counting and classifying by race had always gone hand in hand with public policies. As the present classification system evolved, Professor Prewitt explained, problematic features remained, making it difficult for the current system to inform coherent policies for the 21st century.

Image courtesy of the interviewee


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