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Gaining Access to Hard-to-Reach Arab-Americans

Rita Stephan, US Census Bureau 
*Sharon Ennis, U.S. Census Bureau 

Keywords: Arab-Americans, cultural sensitivity, informal social networks

As a community that puzzles survey researchers and ethnographers alike, Arabs are often considered hard-to-reach and hard-to-count population in the United States. While they share a complex historical and cultural heritage, Arabs vary in their self-identification and how others identify them. The Census Bureau (following the guidelines set by the Office of Management of Budget) classifies Arab Americans as White but collects their ancestry data in the American Community Survey. This paper explores how the Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE) could improve the quality of the data that the Census Bureau collects on Arab ancestries.

After tracing the historical classification of Arabs over the years in the Census, this paper discusses results from the Alternative Questionnaire Experiment conducted during the 2010 Census. It particularly evaluates data reported by Arabs on the forms that use the combined race and ethnic origin question, and compares this data to the results from the other forms used in the experiment. It then compares the results with selected ethnic and racial groups to evaluate data consistency and validity. Finally, it addresses some of the challenges associated with the AQE approach in regards to the Arab community in the United States. This paper aims to contribute to improving methodical measurement of the Arab community and to producing a more qualitatively nuanced and quantitatively precise picture of Arab Americans.

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