“Checking the Boxes” – A panel on race, ethnicity, and the Census

Although we don’t always think of it that way, one federal government program that affects each of us in the United State is the decennial census.  And among the challenges of many kinds that a pandemic has brought us, its effects on gathering good quality census data is high on the list.

Earlier this year, the Library hosted a well-attended (physical) exhibit related to the census, Power and the People: The US Census and Who Counts (which can still be experienced online).  Related to the exhibit, we were on board with our plan to host a panel of campus experts on the contested race and ethnicity questions in the census, and how they’ve shifted over time…. Until March 17, when the Bay Area went into a shelter-in-place order and the program had to be postponed.  But last month, thanks to a persistent team, generous panelists, and the wonders of Zoom, we were thrilled to able to present the panel at last, online!

The program, titled Checking the Boxes: Race(ism), Latinx and the Census, featured three UC Berkeley experts on racial and ethnic categorizations in the census.  Cristina Mora (Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino studies), Tina Sacks (Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare), and Victoria Robinson (Lecturer and American Cultures Program Director, Department of Ethnic Studies) were joined by our moderator, librarian Jesse Silva, for presentations and a lively Q&A.

Professor Mora started the program off with the information that “ethnic and race categories are political constructs… They are not set-in-stone scientific markers of identity or genetic composition.” She noted that since the census counts are directly related to funding, communities have a vested interest in getting accurate and complete counts, but this can be very difficult for groups and areas that are designated Hard to Count. Professor Sacks continued by emphasizing the ways in which census-driven funding allocations can affect people in poverty and those in social safety net programs.  She also noted the intersections shown by census data between race and place, such as areas with a substantial number of incarcerated people. Finally Professor Robinson added background and context by discussing the site racebox.org, which shows the history of the race questions on the census from 1790 onwards, and which illuminates the changes in the cultural and social conceptions of what race is and how it can be measured.

The program concluded with an animated question and answer period, which included Professor Mora’s elaborating on the differences between racial and ethnic categories, Professor Sacks (who has actually been a census enumerator) discussing the challenges of counting the homeless population, and Professor Robinson revisiting the question of incarceration and the Attica problem: “[Incarcerated people’s] residence is considered to be a prison. That’s not their home, and the relationship then to the power…in the communities that they [aren’t from], that’s the Attica problem.”

Of course, this summary doesn’t do justice to the range and depth of the issues discussed.  If you missed this program, or would like to see it again, check it out on the UC Berkeley Library’s YouTube channel!

Census panel speaker photos
(Clockwise from top left) Jesse Silva, Cristina Mora, Victoria Robinson, Tina Sacks

Upcoming Event: Job-Seeking in the Times of Covid-19

Job-Seeking in the Times of Covid-19

A conversation with Demographers of Color 

Friday, 12 June 2020

6-7:30pmEST

This virtual panel discussion features four Ph.D. demographers of color who have worked in and outside academia. Panelists will share their career and life experiences. Join us for a sincere discussion of pivots, resilience, and hope. We are organizing this panel in response to feedback gathered at the 1st ever member-organized Demographers of Color & Allies Reception in April.

Panelists:

 Gniesha Y. Dinwiddie (Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from University of Pennsylvania, Masters in African American Studies and Sociology from UCLA, B.A in Social Science from UC Irvine) is a Health Scientist at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is “the leading Federal agency charged with improving the safety and quality of America’s health care system.” Prior to joining AHRQ, Dr. Dinwiddie was a Scientific Review Officer at the National Institutes of Health, Associate Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park.

Mao-Mei Liu (Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Masters in Education and Political and Social Sciences from UPF, B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Molecular Biochemistry from Yale) is Research Faculty in the Department of Demography at the University of California, Berkeley. Before UC Berkeley, Dr. Liu was NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Population Studies and Training Center. Before and during graduate school, Dr Liu worked as a community organizer for the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition in Dorchester and SEIU in Oakland, K-12 teacher in Barcelona and translator/interpreter in the Barcelona area.

 Eddie Telles (Ph.D. in Sociology from UT Austin, Masters in Urban Planning from UCLA, B.A. in Anthropology from Stanford) is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara. Before UC Santa Barbara, Dr. Telles was a Professor of Sociology at Princeton and UCLA. Before joining academia, he worked as ESL instructor, community organizer, research director of Californios for Fair Representation and grants management specialist

Monique B. Williams (Ph.D. and M. A. in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania, B.A. in Urban Studies from Vanderbilt) is an Independent Consultant. Her company is called MBW Statistical Consulting. She advises C-suite executives and senior leaders of large-scale, federally-funded operations on data governance and providing services to customers. Before owning her own company full-time, Dr. Williams worked as a Statistician for the U.S. Census, a Program Officer for the National Academies, and a Senior Statistician for the U. S. Government Accountability Office.

Moderator: Associate Director of the University of Colorado Population Center and Professor at the Population Program and the Geography Department of the University of Colorado at Boulder Fernando Riosmena (Ph.D. in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania, M.A. in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania, Licenciado en Mercadotecnia from ITESM Guadalajara). Before Boulder, Dr. Riosmena was a Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Demography and Ecology.

Register here. A confirmation email with meeting info will be sent post-registration.

This event is hosted by the Demographers of Color & Allies organizing committee (organizers include Asad L. Asad, Christina Cross, René D. Flores, Vicki Fung, Gabriela Sanchez-Soto, Gniesha Dinwiddie, Nadia Flores, Yana Kucheva, Mao-Mei Liu, Glenn Loury, Cecilia Menjívar, Emilio Parrado, Juan Pedroza, Ndola Prata, Fernando Riosmena, Eddie Telles, Monique Williams)

Please Save-The-Date for the last two DOC Job-seeking in Times of Covid-19 Conversations this summer 2020: Higher Ed on Friday, July 10th, 6-7:30pmEST and Real World/beyond Higher-Ed Friday, August 14th, 6-7:30 pm EST

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Source: Ann Glusker, Librarian for Sociology, UC Berkeley Library