Victory for the Marketing Industry on Citizenship Question for 2020 Census

July 3, 2019

By Bill Duggan

Andrii Yalanskyi/

It's now final. An ill-advised citizenship question will not be added to the 2020 census. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the addition of that question. Just yesterday the Trump administration announced that it would not fight that decision and therefore abandon its efforts to add the question. That question would have asked, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" This is a victory for the marketing industry overall and multicultural marketers in particular.

The advertising industry has been 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 census, results would 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.

Again, this is good news for the marketing industry and aligns with the ANA's position, originally published in June 2018 as well as a perspective co-written by the major advertising industry trade associations — 4A's, AAF, ANA, ARF — published in August. Justice has indeed been served!

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