Cover: The Science and Politics of Ethnic Enumeration

The Science and Politics of Ethnic Enumeration

Published 1980

by Ira S. Lowry

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As the U.S. political system moves toward concepts of group (rather than individual) civil rights, ethnicity has emerged as a major civil grouping principle. An ethnic group shares a cultural and biological heritage that typically derives from ancestral territoriality but may persist long after the parent population has dispersed. The success of ethnic groups in gaining special privileges (perhaps justified by past disadvantages) encourages the proliferation of claimant groups. To support ethnic politics, the Bureau of the Census is charged with a growing agenda of ethnic identification and enumeration. Because ethnicity is partly ascribed, partly achieved, and partly asserted, the Bureau has been unable to devise a scientific basis for ethnic identification. This paper analyzes the interplay of political and scientific issues in ethnic identification and recommends some improvements over current practice.

This report is part of the RAND paper series. The paper was a product of RAND from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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