Public Release: 

American Sociological Association issues a statement on Proposition 54

American Sociological Association

WASHINGTON, DC--When California citizens next head to the polls, they will be asked to vote on Proposition 54, which would effectively end public agencies' ability to collect data on the racial, ethnic, and national origin categorizations of its citizens. The American Sociological Association (ASA) joins the American Public Health Association in urging California voters to vote "no" on this Proposition.

The ASA Council recently stated that the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color and National Origin (CRECNO) measure, if approved, would have several negative effects. First it "would eliminate California citizens' ability to hold accountable both their state and local governments, as well as private entities, regarding prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race and/or ethnicity/national origin."

According to Sally T. Hillsman, ASA Executive Officer, researchers would lack the data to inform policymakers on this critical issue, and major research studies of great importance to California's and the nation's health and well-being would necessarily exclude the nation's most populous state.

"For these reasons, ASA urges that California voters allow their governmental entities to collect the necessary data to support evidentiary research on race, ethnicity, and national origin," said Hillsman.

For example, a large body of social science research documents the role and effect of race in social institutions and environments, including criminal justice, education, health, job markets, and where people live. These studies illustrate how racial hierarchies are embedded in daily life--from racial profiling in law enforcement, to "red-lining" communities of color in mortgage lending.

"Sociological research on 'race' provides evidence in the current scientific and civic debate about the consequences of the existing categorizations; allows scholars to document how race shapes social ranking, access to resources, and life experiences; and advances understanding of this important dimension of social life, which in turn advances social justice," said Hillsman. "Refusing to acknowledge the fact of racial classification and to measure its consequences serves only to preserve the status quo of inequalities."

Sociological research has found that individuals and social institutions evaluate, rank, and ascribe behaviors to individuals on the basis of presumed race. The concept of race in the United States changes as economic, political, and historical contexts change. Real-world scientific findings regarding employment, neighborhoods, and health care highlight the persistence of "race" in primary social institutions. These important scientific findings would be impossible without public data on race.

The ASA concludes that "race" clearly matters in America and to Americans, and scientists and policymakers deserve continued access to public data collected on "race."

In 2003, the ASA issued a formal statement, The Importance of Collecting Data and Doing Social Scientific Research on Race, which details ASA's arguments that underlie its position against Proposition 54. The complete 12-page statement is accessible on the web.


The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions and use of sociology to society.

Contact: Johanna Ebner or Lee Herring
(202) 383-9005, ext. 332

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