In his recent book, Kenneth Prewitt, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University and former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzes the race question as it has evolved from the first Census in 1790. The original Census had political reapportionment as its purpose. Racial classification has been a feature of all U.S. censuses and is found in only 13 national censuses—eleven of which were from former slave holding countries. Prewitt argues that
Twenty-first century statistics should not be governed by race thinking that is two and a half centuries out of date.
He believes that “statistical races” should match the governing challenges of the Twenty-First Century and that the pressures of multiraciality, the color-blind movement, and recognition (the policy benefits accruing to race groups) will affect future statistical efforts. Drawing on past history and examples from countries that don’t emphasize race, he advocates shifting away from racial questions based on discredited eighteenth century science toward questions that would better characterize our cultural and familial roots.
Kenneth Prewitt, What is Your Race?: The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans (2013). Available at the Law Library at E184 .A1 P725 2013.