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The Editors

Trump Prepares to Bungle the 2020 Census

Adding a citizenship question would skew its findings — especially in blue states.

Stakes are high.

Stakes are high.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Experts have long been warning that the U.S. government might soon fail at one of its most fundamental responsibilities: conducting an accurate census of the population. Increasingly, that looks to be precisely what the Trump administration wants to do — by adding a last-minute question that doesn’t need to be asked.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of getting the 2020 census right. Its primary purpose is to count everyone in the country and ascertain where they live. The result decides how many representatives each state sends to Congress, how trillions of dollars in federal funds are allocated, and where companies such as Walmart and Amazon put new stores and warehouses. It also forms the statistical foundation that ensures the accuracy of all other government surveys, from the annual American Community Survey to the monthly jobs report.