Taking stock of the census: CMC Professor Skerry Authors Counting on the Census?, Placing Census Controversies in Political Context

Marking America's once-a-decade Census Day, Counting on the Census?, a new book by Claremont McKenna College professor Peter Skerry is set to hit bookstore shelves on April 1.

The book, which already has been quoted in Robert J. Samuelson's March 20 Newsweek column on the census, tackles several controversies long associated with the nation's efforts to count its population: racial equality, affirmative action, evolving racial identities, and minority undercounts.

In Counting on the Census?, Skerry argues that census questions about race are appropriate; that the census is an inherently political undertaking, rather than a scientific enterprise; and that attempts to remedy undercounts have a minimal impact on allocation of resources or congressional representation. As a result, he declares, attempts to adjust the count only undermine public confidence in what he considers a fundamental function of government.

Instead, Skerry calls for greater realism about the limited accuracy of census data, and for greater tolerance of the untidy politics that accompanies the diversity Americans have come to value.

Skerry, a professor of political science at Claremont Mckenna College, also is a nonresident senior fellow in the governmental studies program at the Brookings Institution, and author of the award-winning Mexican-Americans: The Ambivalent Minority. Counting on the Census? is a publication of Brookings Institution Press.

Claremont McKenna is a highly selective independent liberal arts college educating leaders in business and public affairs. CMC enrolls 1,000 students and is a member of The Claremont Colleges.

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