Industry Groups Come Out in Opposition to Citizenship Question for 2020 Census

By Erik Oster Comment

Advertising’s four major trade groups, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) have collectively come out in opposition to a question about citizenship being added to the U.S. Census.

A letter from all four groups, addressed to director, Office of Policy and Governance at the U.S. Department of Commerce and signed by 4A’s president and CEO Marla Kaplowitz, AAF president and CEO James Datri, ARF president and CEO Scott McDonald and ANA CEO Bob Liodice requests that the question not be added to the 2020 census. The letter cites concerns that the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” would cause non-respondent bias by undercounting both noncitizen and citizen immigrants with non-citizen family members, leading to flawed census results.

“This raises significant issues in the world of marketing, as flawed results would distort the representation of U.S. population estimates and the research benchmarked to it,” the letter explains, since “the census is the foundation for population estimates that support the marketing industry.”

It names “media that serve multicultural communities, the companies which research them, and the agencies which help advertise to them,” as likely suffering negative impacts from the introduction of a citizenship question.

The letter in full is included below:

August 7, 2018
Ms. Jennifer Jessup
Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer
Department of Commerce
Room 6616
14th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20230
Email: PRAcomments@doc.gov

Re: Docket number USBC–2018–0005

Dear Ms. Jessup,

On behalf of our respective members, the 4A’s, the AAF, the ANA, and the ARF — the major trade associations representing the advertising industry — are jointly writing to express our opposition to the addition of the new census question that asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

We are concerned that the addition of a citizenship question would depress response among both non-citizens and their families (even if family members are indeed citizens). That runs the risk of non-respondent bias by significantly undercounting immigrant, minority, and low-income populations. If immigrants and others avoid the
national head-count, the census results will be flawed.

This raises significant issues in the world of marketing, as flawed results would distort the representation of U.S. population estimates and the research benchmarked to it. Since the census is the foundation for population estimates that support the marketing industry, inaccurate census data would lead to misallocated marketing resources. It could have a particularly negative impact on media that serve multicultural communities, the companies which research them, and the agencies which help advertise to them. The value marketers see in those consumer segments would be understated and investments reduced.

As one of our members stated, “I believe that undocumented people will not report their presence and therefore the census will be underreported, skewing data, messing up budgets, and providing inaccurate reporting.”

We respectfully request that this citizenship question NOT be added to the 2020 Census.

Marla Kaplowitz
President and CEO
American Association of Advertising Agencies

Bob Liodice
CEO
Association of National Advertisers

James Edmund Datri
President and CEO
American Advertising Federation

Scott McDonald, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Advertising Research Foundation

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