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October 08, 2003

Statement by Sally T. Hillsman, Executive Officer of the
American Sociological Association
On the Defeat of California's Proposition 54

The American Sociological Association joins social and health scientists around the nation to mark the defeat of California’s Proposition 54, the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color and National Origin (CRECNO) measure. This success preserves the ability of scientists to continue to contribute to our society through basic and applied research that utilizes data on race, ethnicity, and national origin. At the same time, we recognize that it is likely we will need to continue to fight for the integrity of the infrastructure that allows valid scientific investigation of important health and social processes and for transparency in our social institutions. Government-sanctioned prohibitions against collecting and analyzing certain types of data is a frightening prospect for science and democracy in a modern society.

With data on race no longer at risk for being deemed “illegal,” California citizens can expect continuing openness and accountability in the public and private sectors regarding prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and/or national origin. Policymakers also can celebrate the defeat of this “head-in-the-sand” proposition that would have blinded our society instead of rendering it colorblind. Proposition 54 would have robbed scientists and policymakers alike of critical research data in studies of great importance to the health and social well-being of Californians and all Americans.

A large body of social science research documents the impact of race in American society, including health, justice, education, employment, and where people live. These studies illustrate how racial hierarchies are embedded in daily life—from racial profiling in law enforcement and “red-lining” communities of color in mortgage lending to the delivery of medical care.

As sociologists, we believe that race still matters in America and to Americans and that until we achieve a world in which this is no longer the case, scientists and policymakers need continued access to public data collected on race, ethnicity, and national origin.

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 in PDF format.

ASA's September 22 press release describing ASA's position against Proposition 54 can be found here.

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About the American Sociological Association
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 to and use of sociology by society.