Census revision concerns Polish community


Several ethnic groups are worried the questions’ absence could cause them to lose some funding.

By Sean Barron

POLAND — For generations, many Polish people have called the United States — and the Mahoning Valley — home.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 form will be missing questions that ask participants about their ancestry, something a national organization and many local Polish people want to see restored.

“We’ll put pressure on Congress and the Census Bureau to put the questions back on,” said Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, president of the Piast Institute, one of 56 census information centers in the country. “Piast will try to change this by [the] 2020 [census].”

Radzilowski spoke on the subject to several dozen people during a meeting Sunday in the Poland branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 311 S. Main St. Hosting the event was the Polish Arts Club of Youngstown.

In response to the questions’ removal, the institute, based in Hamtramck, Mich., recently came out with a 49-question anonymous online survey to gauge the attitudes of Polish Americans of all generations regarding numerous key public issues, their feelings about the values that should motivate Poles and their ideas for the future of their community. So far, more than 1,200 people from 42 states have participated, Radzilowski noted.

In addition, some ethnic groups are concerned they could lose their share of federal and private dollars because their institutions often rely on census data to allocate funds.

Radzilowski noted that the change not only will affect Polish people but “a significant number” of blacks in America who came from Africa and the Caribbean as well as many Europeans.

Questions pertaining to ancestry formerly asked on the Census Bureau’s long form in 2000 and before will be on the American Community Survey, which will send out questionnaires to a small percentage of the population on a rotating basis through the decade between census counts. This smaller percentage of questionnaires will be used to calculate the Polish population, Radzilowski explained.

Polish Americans make up about 2.7 percent of Youngstown’s population; in Mahoning County, the figure is slightly more than 5 percent, making Poles the seventh-largest ethnic group in the Valley, he noted. Also, Polish people tend to be better-educated, wealthier and more likely to hold management positions and own their homes than those in the general population, he continued.

Radzilowski urged Poles to be more vocal about their ethnicity. It’s important they also resist being labeled as white, he said.

“There’s no such thing as white culture,” Radzilowski added. “One of the things we need to do is help each other.”

The survey also is to gather information on how Poles feel about abortion, U.S.-Polish relations, economic cooperation and cultural and educational exchanges, noted Dominik A. Stecula, the Piast Institute’s director of research and data analysis.

For more information about the institute, go to its Web site, www.piastinstitute.org.


- The independent, nonprofit Piast Institute’s main purpose is to promote greater understanding of — and advocate the needs for — Polish America and Poland.

- Seeks to empower communities and ethnic groups it works with via coalition building and dialogue on ways to prosper in a multicultural society.

- Sponsors multiethnic and multiracial collaborations to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among youth, as well as to promote increased racial, religious and ethnic tolerance.

- Promotes and hosts national and regional university lectures, plays and exhibits.

- Prepares historical and policy studies as well as curriculum materials on Polish and multicultural themes.

- The institute is an official Immigration Assistance Site designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Source: Piast Institute

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