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 How to complete Question 9
on the 2010 Census Form

Let the Census Know Your Identify –
Record your Race in Question 9
(where race means your heritage, nationality group, ethnicity)

by L. F. Somogyi, on 2010-03-22

Starting in March 2010, every residence in the United States and Puerto Rico will get a census form. When you receive it, answer the 10 questions and then mail the form back in the postage-paid envelope. Question 9 is where the census form lets you define your race, where this means your heritage, nationality group, ethnicity and related concepts.

How does the Census Bureau define race and ethnicity?

In general, the Census Bureau defines ethnicity or origin as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person 's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.  (Official Census definition.)

Because of the wording of “race” used on the form, you may not think to complete Question 9 and provide information about your identity as defined by your heritage, nationality, ethnicity - but you can and should.

For example, a person who is of Hungarian heritage might only check “white” and not write in “Hungarian” as their race at the end of Question 9, because the words ethnicity, origin, nationality, or heritage are not explicitly used, though these are included in the definition of “race.”

Why aren’t all the races listed explicitly?

By way of explanation, the US Government says there are too many “races” to list on the form, so they focus on the defined primary ones. There is no explicit effort on the part of the Government to collect good information on race (ethnicity, origin, nationality, heritage, etc) as reported and perceived by Americans who don’t fit the categories that the Government deems consequential.

But it is important to put down your race as you wish to identify it  because the Census will take it into consideration if you do.

Why fill in your heritage, nationality, ethnicity?

Because being counted is what the Census is all about, it is important to fill in the information even though it is not one of the explicit ones listed. Knowing there is a significant group who identify themselves as a specific heritage, nationality, ethnicity lets our representatives in Congress know they should keep our interests in mind when they vote on policy and deal with matters of foreign relations that are of special interest to us around the world.

The Census makes language assistance available in 59 languages

Even though they don’t list all the “races,” the Census makes language assistance forms available in 59 languages, to help people fill out the English language version of the census form.

You can see the available Language Assistance Guides under References and Tools here:

For example, here is the Hungarian assistance form:

You can see what the Census document contains in English here:

Where do I fill in my heritage, nationality, ethnicity?

Question 9 is where you have the option of listing your race, in other words your nationality or ethnic identity, by filling it in. What you fill in  will be recorded as part of the results.

First you should mark White, Black, American Indian or one of the other listed race groupings, and then write in your heritage, nationality, ethnicity at the bottom of Question 9.

This is how Question 9 looks, as shown on the interactive web page that defines the census form:

Make sure you fill in the form for everyone in your household. You can specify the race of others in the household on the second page of the census form under Question 6 in a similar way.

If you have questions….

It is always important to provide useful information to help our free and democratic form of government make the right decisions on our behalf. The census form Question 9 is one piece of important information that you can provide that will help.


Revised: 03/22/10.              Copyright © 2010  International Services Center, Cleveland, Ohio