Municipal governments have an important relationship with the census — both as consumers of the data it gathers and as partners in ensuring the complete and accurate count of our cities. Data produced by the census are critical to our democratic system and improves our ability to function as one of the world’s largest countries and economies.
But the census only occurs every ten years—making it difficult to remember important information and pass knowledge on to new and incoming leaders. Last month, we wrote about counting hard-to-count communities; this month, we take a deep dive into the communities and residents you may have questions about, like snow birds, college students and renters.
Residence Criteria for the 2020 Census
The Census Bureau seeks to count all people residing in the United States at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time, on or around Census Day, which is April 1, 2020. People who do not have a usual residence, or who cannot determine one, are counted where they are present most on Census Day.
Homeowners, Renters and Household Members with One Residence
Will be counted at this residence, even if they are not physically there on April 1, 2020 due to a temporary visit elsewhere.
Temporary Residents, Vacationers, Multi-Home Owners and “Snowbirds”
Each housing unit will receive census mailers, but the “head of household” will respond using the address of their usual residence. Children under shared-custody will be counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. In cases of equally-shared custody, children will be counted where they are present on April 1, 2020.
If they are living in the U.S., they will be counted at their usual residence. Tourists, business travelers or other temporary visitors will not be counted.
Residents of Group Facilities
They will be counted at the facility in which they are housed or living on Census Day. For example, a resident of a nursing home will be counted at the facility where he or she lives.
Active Military Personnel and Families
If they are stationed at a military installation in the U.S., they will be counted at their usual residence either on-base or off-base. If they are stationed overseas, they will be counted as part of the federally-affiliated overseas population, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense using administrative records. If they are stationed stateside but deployed overseas during the census, they will be counted at their usual residence in the U.S. If they are aboard a military vessel, they will be counted at either their usual U.S. residence or as a part of the federally-affiliated overseas population — depending on whether the vessel’s homeport is in the U.S. or overseas.
College and Boarding-School Students
College students living on campus or in off-campus housing will be counted at school facilities or at their off-campus housing, even if they visit home on holidays and breaks. If they commute, they will be counted at their usual residence. If they are attending a school outside the U.S. and living abroad, they will not be counted. Boarding school students will be counted at their parents’ home.
Persons Living Abroad and Expats
If they are living abroad as part of a federal mission, they will be counted as part of the federally-affiliated overseas population. If they are otherwise living abroad, they will not be counted. If they are traveling overseas temporarily, they will be counted at their usual residence in the U.S.
Persons in Shelters and Those Experiencing Homelessness
If they still have a usual residence, they will be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. If they do NOT have a usual residence on April 1, 2020 (i.e. it was destroyed by disaster or they otherwise lost possession) but are staying at a temporary shelter or residence, they will be counted at that shelter or residence. If they reside outdoors with no shelter on April 1, 2020, they will be counted at the outdoor location where they are present on Census Day. Census enumerators will only visit targeted outdoor locations identified in advance with the help of municipal officials and nonprofit organizations.
Will be counted at the prison or jail in which they are incarcerated on April 1, 2020.
For additional information and recommendations, leaders can consult NLC’s Municipal Action Guide.
About the Authors:
Brian Egan is NLC’s Principal Associate for Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations. Follow him on Twitter @BeegleME.
Alex Jones is a manager in the NLC Center for City Solutions. Previously, he was a senior policy analyst at the Brookings Institution and strategic adviser to its Centennial Scholar Initiative.