The census has one purpose: to count everyone in the United States and in its territories.
It sounds easier than it actually is. Since it only happens once every decade and people tend to move around, grow their families or find themselves in moments of transition, it can get confusing on who counts on your questionnaire and who doesn’t.
Here’s a quick guide on who to count and how.
Anyone who lives under one roof as of April 1 should be reported on one questionnaire.
This includes any friends or family members who just moved into the household. If someone has no usual home elsewhere and who sleeps in a household most of their time, they should be included in the household questionnaire.
This means roommates, young children, newborns and anyone who is renting space in a household should be included.
The rule of thumb is that any children who live in a household, including foster children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children of friends who are living under that roof temporarily should be counted on the household’s questionnaire.
Children who split their time between homes should be counted on the questionnaire of the household they spend the most time in.
Newborn babies, even the ones born on April 1 and who are still in the hospital should also be included. Note babies born after April 1 do not count for the 2020 census.
This question may seem silly, but there are some visitors that should be counted under a household.
This is under the special circumstance that a visitor is from a foreign country or out of state but is taking temporary residence under a respondent’s roof. If they are visiting for a temporary vacation or on a business trip, they should not be counted.
Rule of thumb: a person should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time.
Even though most students have a part-time home at school, they will likely receive their own questionnaire and self-report. This does not apply to college students living at home.
College students who live away from home should be counted at the university residence of off-campus housing where they live, even if they are at the home of their parent or guardian April 1. This includes foreign students living and attending college in the U.S.
If the student is below the college level and attends boarding or military school, they should be counted at the home of their parents or guardians.
U.S. college students are attending college abroad will not be counted in the census.
There are particular rules for people who have group living arrangements. You can use this link to learn more.
Those serving in the armed forces and living in housing units can still participate in the census online, by phone or mail.
The Census Bureau uses its group strategy method to count military personnel living in barracks and such, much like how it counts students in a dorm.
As for military personnel who are deployed overseas, they should be counted at their home address in the U.S.
People displaced by natural disasters
Whether it’s from a wildfire, hurricane or earthquake, some natural disasters force people out of their homes making it difficult to know where they call home and how they should be counted. The Census Bureau has a method to count those who find themselves in such a difficult situation.
For those displaced, they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. If they don’t have a residence where they usually live and sleep, they should be reported on the questionnaire based on where they’re staying on April 1.
For those displaced or find themselves homeless, the bureau follows its usual group living arrangements protocol. They’ll count people much like how they count military personnel and university students.
This can include people living in emergency and transitional shelters that provide sleeping facilities for people. Such shelters are typically for those in a transitory period, find themselves homeless or a victim of violence or natural disasters. Those opting for a shelter should be counted there.
People living in transitory locations
Some people opt to live in an RV, at a marina, hotel, motel or even a campground making it difficult to count them on the census.
The Census Bureau has a specific process for people who choose to live in such locations. Census takers will visit these transitory locations during a scheduled time between April 9 and May 4, counting people in occupied units via interviews and a paper questionnaire.
Those hoping to learn more about this process can click here.