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Speaking across the threshold: 2010 census enumeration of Russian-speaking immigrants
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*Ludmila Isurin, The Ohio State University 

Keywords: census, enumeration, Russian, race, ethnicity, gender

The paper discusses the major findings of the observational study conducted during the 2010 US Census enumeration. Altogether 67 cases involving Russian respondents and 36 interviews with English speakers were observed. The cross-cultural and socio-cultural comparison of the two groups revealed a few factors that secure the success of the NRFU interviews among Russian-speaking respondents. The factors of gender (both respondent’s and enumerators’), age, and ethnicity of the enumerator played a major role in the success of the interview. Russian speaking elderly female respondents were more likely to reach the desired level of comfort at the end of the interview than Russian male and English-speaking female counterparts. The role of the opposite gender and age proximity between the respondent and enumerator contributed to the establishment of the adequate comfort level during the interview. The cultural norm of hospitality promoted a higher rate of interview success among elderly Russians than among younger Russians and all age groups of English speakers. In addition, the study revealed a major misunderstanding of the ‘race’ question by Russian respondents. The lack of the conceptual overlap between ‘race’ and ‘nationality’ and the major role of the latter in the formation of self-identification among Russian immigrants led to numerous instances of confusion during the NRFU interviews. The manipulation of the ‘race’ question by enumerators produced responses ranging from ‘White’ to “Jew”. The paper calls for a closer consideration of various issues within and outside of the linguistic domain for future census enumeration of hard to reach populations.

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