Research Reports

You are here: Census.govSubjects A to ZResearch Reports Sorted by Year › Abstract of RSM2013/13
Skip top of page navigation

Ethnographic Study of the Group Quarters Population in the 2010 Census: Jails and Prisons

Barbara Owen and Anna Y. Chan


In examining the factors that shape the ability of the U.S. Census Bureau to accurately count those confined to correctional facilities, a qualitative case study was conducted to assess the 2010 enumeration in these Group Quarters. These data are also the basis for recommendations about future Census Coverage Measurement to both assess census coverage accuracy and improve census processes in correctional group quarters. The study also identifies social, cultural, operational and other dynamic factors that affect census coverage and may produce coverage errors. The 2010 Census is described through qualitative observations and unstructured interviews in three primary study sites and three secondary sites. The primary sites include two women’s state prisons and one county jail, conducted between March and May 2010. Secondary sites were a large male prison visited during the observation of the American Community Survey (ACS), the state correctional agency main office and a small women’s prison in another state. Problems and successes specifically related to coverage accuracy are also described. Several research questions directed this qualitative investigation: (1) How was the 2010 Census conducted in two women’s prisons and one jail, (2) What factors affect the quality of data collected in these correctional Group Quarters, (3) What types of coverage and enumeration problems exist in prisons and jails, (4) How can a Census Coverage Measurement (CCM) follow-up study be conducted in prisons and jails, and (5) What is the best approach to ensuring an accurate and complete enumeration in correctional Group Quarters for the 2020 Census?


Barbara Owen and Anna Y. Chan. (2013). Ethnographic Study of the Group Quarters Population in the 2010 Census: Jails and Prisons. Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2013-13). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement

Published online: April 25, 2013
Last revised: April 25, 2013


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Research and Methodology Directorate | Center for Survey Measurement | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: September 11, 2013