Uber, Nielsen And Others Urge Supreme Court To Nix Citizenship Question

Ride-sharing company Uber, online glasses seller Warby Parker and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce are among a host of companies and business organizations asking the Supreme Court to leave in place a decision that prohibits the Department of Commerce from including a question about citizenship in the upcoming census.

“All available evidence confirms that the citizenship question will impair the accuracy of the census,” the organizations write in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday with the Supreme Court.

The groups are weighing in on a battle over the Trump administration's plan to ask census respondents whether they are citizens. Federal judges in New York and California recently banned the Commerce Department from including that question. The administration is now appealing those decisions to the Supreme Court.

Among other arguments, the administration says judges shouldn't review the census questions.

“Demographic questions, including ones about sensitive topics such as race, gender, marital status, and citizenship, long have appeared on the decennial census questionnaire,” the Commerce Department argues. “Yet until now no court has seen fit to police the contents of the decennial census questionnaire.”

Uber and the other businesses argue to the Supreme Court that questioning people about their citizenship will lead to undercounting of non-citizens, which will harm businesses that “rely on the census for marketing, product development, operations and other purposes.”

The Census Bureau has estimated that asking people about their citizenship would result in an additional 5.8% of households to refuse to respond to the census, compared to the last census. The companies weighing in with the Supreme Court argue that even a 5.8% drop in response rates “would result in significantly flawed data, undercounting millions of people.”

“Businesses use census data to inform decisions about product development and placement.

A retail business may, for instance, rely on demographic data to determine which products are going to sell best in which regions, and calibrate each store’s stock accordingly,” the groups argue.

“Flawed census data can also impact customer outreach. For example, because utility companies often offer lower rates for poorer, elderly, or disabled customers, utility companies use census data to determine which areas are most likely to need those special rates and reach out to customers in those areas to evaluate eligibility,” they add.

The Nielsen Company also weighed in against the Commerce Department's plans.

“Nielsen itself uses census data both to compile its 'sample' households and to extrapolate the results of its samples to local and national markets for both media and consumer purchase measurement,” the company writes in its own friend-of-the-court brief. “The addition of a question to the census that will reduce the census’s accuracy will have a lasting and negative impact on the operations of the largest American consumer product manufacturers, retailers, media, and marketing businesses.”

The major ad industry groups said last year they objected to the citizenship question. “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),” the CEOs of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, and Advertising Research Foundation wrote in a jointly signed letter sent to the Commerce Department last August.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the matter this month, and issue a decision in June.

3 comments about "Uber, Nielsen And Others Urge Supreme Court To Nix Citizenship Question".
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  1. John Donohue from White Tree Concepts, April 3, 2019 at 11:05 a.m.

    There are several strata of legal residence beside citizenship. Lawful Permanent Resident (green card), F1/M1/J1 visas, temporary employment-based visas, etc. Why are the objectors to the citizenship question not "terrified" to lose that critical marketing information?

    Those holding these have nothing to fear and no shame. They are here legally.

    This should be a multiple-choice question.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 3, 2019 at 1:03 p.m.

    Many people won't respond to the census, period. Others won't because they have family members who are not cititzens or friends who are not citizens. Others will answer they are not citizens when they are, in protest, like me. Not that so much that advertisng depends upon accuracy,but funds, governments - federal, state, local are dependent upon them. Productivity Depends upon accuracy. We depend upon them when disasters occur, we need accuracy for the military and defense. It will increase fudging and lying from the people collecting and trying to find people and more inaccuracy. How many brown shirts will be out there collecting people and putting them in cages and camps ? How many wrongful arrests and jailing suits are there going to be ? How much is that going to cost to settle them and cost to productivity ? Then the census will have to be redone when these fascists are out of office and how much will that cost ? and the redoing of all the aforementioned and more - what will that cost ?

    Ships of fools.

  3. Bill Duggan from ANA, April 8, 2019 at 8:10 a.m.

    ANA continues to oppose the addition of a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census. We are concerned that the addition of this question -- "Is this person a citizen of the United States? -- 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 headcount, 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 resouces. It could have a particularly negative impact on media that serve multicultural communities, the companies which research them, and the agencies which advertise to them. The value marketers see in those consumer segmens would be understated and investments reduced. ANA wholeheartedly supports the many companies and organizations who are asking theĀ  Supreme Court to leave in place the decision that prohibits the Department of Commerce from including a question about citizenship in the upcoming census.

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