Skip to main content

New 2020 Census Rules Make It Harder to Navigate Native American Data

CICD Working Papers 2023-05 | Published August 9, 2023

Download PDF


Matthew Gregg Senior Economist, Center for Indian Country Development
H Trostle Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Indian Country Development
Carolyn A. Liebler University of Minnesota
New 2020 Census Rules Make It Harder to Navigate Native American Data


The U.S. Census Bureau has developed a new set of safeguards for the 2020 Census to protect respondent confidentiality. This paper discusses the implications for Indian Country of two of the new safeguards: differential privacy, a statistical framework that infuses random noise into raw data; and dynamic population thresholds, parameters used to determine whether detailed American Indian tribes and Alaska Native (AIAN) tribes and villages receive demographic data. We show that differential privacy greatly affects the accuracy of published, place-based statistics on smaller American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) areas. We also find that the minimum population thresholds used to report demographic statistics on detailed, self-identified American Indian and Alaska Native respondents living in AIANNH areas are so high that roughly 80 percent of all tribal groups who previously received a full suite of demographic data would no longer have their age data reported by sex. We conclude with recommendations on how to increase the utility of 2020 Census data on tribes and tribal areas.