The nation’s group quarters population increased 3.2% from April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2020, to 8,239,016, but it decreased 1.2% in Puerto Rico over the same period to 37,509, according to 2020 Census results released today.
The group quarters population increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia, rising 10% or more in 10 states.
This is the first time since the 2010 Census that group quarters (GQ) populations are available by type of group quarters from the U.S. Census Bureau for geographies below the state level — all the way down to the block level for the United States and Puerto Rico.
Group quarters are places where people live or stay in a group living arrangement that are owned or managed by entities or organizations providing housing and/or services for the residents. These services may include custodial or medical care as well as other types of assistance to residents.
Unlike a typical household-type living arrangement, people living in group quarters are usually not related to one another.
Group quarters include such places as college/university student housing, residential treatment centers, nursing/skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities for adults, and workers group living quarters and job corps centers.
Detailed definitions of GQ types are listed in Appendix B of the 2020 Census Redistricting (P.L. 94-171) Summary File Technical Documentation.
The group quarters population accounted for 2.5% of the total U.S. population in 2020, down from 2.6% in 2010. In some local areas, such as those with a military base or college campus, the group quarters population can be a large share of the overall population.
College/university student housing remained the GQ type with the largest population, growing by 271,007 (10.7%) to 2,792,097 between 2010 and 2020 (Table 1).
The second-largest GQ type population, correctional facilities for adults, decreased by 296,305 (13.1%) to 1,967,297.
Two other GQ types with populations over 1 million saw gains during the decade:
The populations of all other GQ types decreased from 2010 to 2020.
Military quarters, which includes military ships, decreased by 2.9% to 328,372.
The types with the smallest GQ populations — juvenile facilities and other institutional group quarters — also decreased in size by 41.8% to 88,115 and 7.2% to 70,943, respectively.
The decrease in part can be attributed to an update in how juveniles at noncorrectional residential treatment centers were counted. For the 2020 Census, they were counted at their usual home address, if provided, rather than at the facility. For the 2010 Census, they were counted at the facility even if a usual home address was provided.
The group quarters population increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia, rising 10% or more in 10 states (Figure 1).
The states with the fastest-growing group quarters populations were Idaho and Utah at over 15%. Nineteen states and Puerto Rico saw a decrease in their group quarters populations, with most declines below 5%.
Six states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — experienced a drop of 5% or more.
As with each census, these results reflect changes in the population since the last census. These new counts also provide a snapshot of the GQ population during the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the GQ population and how specific GQ populations were enumerated.
Amid pandemic-related challenges, we modified our operations and provided additional guidance to ensure people in group quarters were counted and counted in the right place. We summarized these challenges and how we addressed them in a previously published blog about GQs.
We had numerous quality checks built into collecting the data, and we conducted one of the most comprehensive reviews in recent census history during data processing that included additional outreach to some GQs. Anomalies were identified and addressed in the review of the GQ counts.
No census is perfect, and we will continue to evaluate the 2020 Census group quarters enumeration using information from the assessment reports and feedback from the 2020 Census Count Question Resolution program and other outreach programs to apply lessons learned to the 2030 Census.
We have taken the time needed to produce the high-quality data that we and the public expect. The GQ population counts by major GQ type at the national, state and lower geographic levels are reasonable compared with 2010 Census and American Community Survey population benchmarks.
Overall, the results by major GQ type are in line with recent trends and consistent with expectations. We are confident that every step has been taken to ensure that the 2020 Census results for group quarters meet our high data quality standards.
Counting the population of every GQ in the nation is an immense task in even normal circumstances. This release includes counts of the GQ population for different GQ types down to the lowest geographic level (the census block) for which the Census Bureau releases data.
Even with the additional efforts made this decade, as with any census, it is expected that some discrepancies for the counts of the population for individual GQs remain. This release is just the beginning of understanding how the nation's GQ population has changed since the 2010 Census, and these GQ counts will be the focus of many other research efforts.
William Koerber is a survey statistician and group quarters subject matter expert at the Census Bureau.
Steven Wilson is chief of the Census Bureau's Population and Housing Programs Branch.
The U.S. Census Bureau provides the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with population counts to use in their redrawing of congressional and state legislative district boundaries — a process known as “redistricting.”
While the states are responsible for legislative redistricting, the Census Bureau provides population counts possible for the geographic areas the states need.