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The Language of Residence: Respondent Understandings and Census Rules

Eleanor R. Gerber


Respondents' understandings of the language and concepts used in the Census and surveys can influence the creation of rosters by encouraging or discouraging the inclusion of certain individuals. They may be unfamiliar with the terms used in the questions or define them differently than intended. They may have a different set of assumptions than the Census Bureau about who should be listed as living with them. The Cognitive Study of Living Situations was a small scale study of terms and concepts respondents use in understanding residence. The interviews were structured around a series of specially prepared vignettes based on ethnographic sources. The thirty-six respondents who were interviewed included low-income African Americans and Hispanics (groups known to be at risk of undercounting in the Census,) and middle income Whites (the group which most closely resembles the writers of census questions). Hispanic respondents were inter~iewed both in Spanish and in English. Although few differences between the three groups of respondents emerged, all appear to make different assumptions about residence than Census residence rules assume.


Gerber, Eleanor R. (2010). The Language of Residence: Respondent Understandings and Census Rules. Statistical Research Division Research Report Series (Survey Methodology #2010-17). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <http://www.census.gov/srd/papers/pdf/rsm2010-17.pdf>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Published online: June 29, 2010
Last revised: 1994


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or chad.eric.russell@census.gov) |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010