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A New Way for Governmental Units to Request Review of 2020 Census Group Quarters Counts Potentially Affected by Pandemic

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Governmental units in the United States and Puerto Rico will soon receive letters and emails from the U.S. Census Bureau informing them of a new way to submit information to request a review of their official 2020 Census group quarters population counts. Approximately 40,000 tribal, state and local governments will be notified and provided information on how to participate, including details on the materials required to submit a case.

The 2020 Post-Census Group Quarters Review (PCGQR) operation is unique to this decade because of the unprecedented challenge of counting group quarters populations in the 2020 Census during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 PCGQR operation was created in response to public feedback about the population count of specific group quarters during this unprecedented count.

Group quarters include places such as college/university student housing, nursing/skilled nursing facilities and correctional facilities. When the pandemic began in 2020, many colleges and universities, for example, closed dormitories and sent students home to learn virtually right before April 1. Changes in living arrangements made counting people where they lived on Census Day – and in the right place according to the Census Bureau’s residence criteria – difficult, especially since schools remained virtual throughout the data collection period.

The 2020 PCGQR operation was created in response to public feedback about the population count of specific group quarters during this unprecedented count.

Here, we answer questions about this first-ever operation that gives local governmental units an opportunity to ask for a count review of group quarters in their communities. 

What is the Post-Census Group Quarters Review operation?

The 2020 PCGQR is an operation that offers tribal, state and local U.S. governments the opportunity to submit a request for the Census Bureau to review their population counts for group quarters facilities they believe were not counted correctly as of April 1, 2020.

The 2020 PCGQR requests must be consistent with 2020 Census residence criteria and residence situations used to determine where to count people for the 2020 Census or guidance the Census Bureau issued in response to COVID-19 operational delays.

Why is the Census Bureau doing this for the first time?

The 2020 PCGQR was created in response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and feedback we received from the public for the Count Question Resolution operation.

You also have a Count Question Resolution (CQR) operation? How is this different?

The 2020 PCGQR is separate from the 2020 Census Count Question Resolution (CQR) operation.

CQR allows tribal, state and local officials to ask the Census Bureau to review their official 2020 Census boundaries or housing counts to identify errors that may have occurred while processing these counts as of April 1, 2020. The CQR operation has been conducted since the 1990 Census. If the review process finds errors in these boundaries or housing counts, the discrepancies will be updated, and the Census Bureau will issue updated census counts and provide the affected governmental unit a certification of the updated count.

The 2020 PCGQR allows tribal, state and local governments to ask the Census Bureau to review their population counts for group quarters facilities they believe were not counted correctly as of April 1, 2020. This operation was created solely in response to the unique challenges the 2020 Census faced during the pandemic.

The updated counts from CQR and 2020 PCGQR will be provided to the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program for incorporation into the base population for upcoming vintages of estimates and will be included in the next possible population base as the production schedule allows. 

Neither CQR nor 2020 PCGQR alter redistricting data, apportionment results or other 2020 Census data products.

Can governments use the Special Census instead of the 2020 PCGQR to request a review of group quarters populations?

The Census Bureau still has the Special Census Program.

A special census is a basic enumeration of population, housing units, group quarters, and transitory locations conducted by the Census Bureau at the request of a governmental unit on a cost-reimbursable basis. Local officials frequently request a special census when there has been a significant population change in their community because of annexation or growth.

The Special Census Program is expected to resume in 2023. The updated counts from a special census do not impact 2020 Census counts.

Check out the “What to Consider if You Find an Unexpected Census Result” webpage for more information about the differences between the 2020 PCGQR, CQR and the Special Census program. 

How do I file a review request?

Eligible governmental units must provide the Census Bureau with the appropriate documentation required to request a review of their group quarters population counts. This includes rosters and source materials and details about the group quarters count discrepancy to assist the Census Bureau with its research of the governmental unit’s case.

Governmental units are recommended to submit their cases electronically using the Census Bureau’s Secure Web Incoming Module (SWIM). If governments cannot use SWIM, materials can be submitted through postal mail. Instructions on submission materials can be accessed on the 2020 PCGQR webpage.

The Census Bureau will only accept cases from the highest elected or appointed official of tribal, state and local governmental units, or their designated representative.

Regardless of who submits the case, the Census Bureau must receive notification from the highest elected or appointed official of the governmental units indicating they want the Census Bureau to review their census data through the 2020 PCGQR process. This level of notification assures the Census Bureau that the highest level of leadership is informed and agrees with filing a case on behalf of the governmental unit.

How much time do I have to ask for a review?

Cases will be accepted from June 6, 2022, until June 30, 2023.

How long will the review take?

The Census Bureau will attempt to notify governmental units of their outcome within 90 days of receiving their submission.

What happens after I submit a case review?

Once we receive a case, Census Bureau staff will determine if it is within the scope of 2020 PCGQR.

If the case is out of scope (see list of Group Quarters for the 2020 PCGQR), the Census Bureau will notify the governmental unit through a letter of determination. Out-of-scope cases could include:

  • Group quarters types that are not on the list of eligible 2020 PCGQR group quarters types.
  • Group quarters that did not exist or were not available for occupancy on April 1, 2020 (Census Day).
  • Cases that don’t include the required documentation, such as the 2020 PCGQR Response Template.

If the case is out of scope, the Census Bureau will notify the governmental unit. 

Who will be notified of the results and how?

Once a resolution is determined for each case, the Census Bureau will respond to the governmental unit that submitted the request in writing. An official determination letter will be sent to inform the highest elected official of the governmental unit whether the case was determined to be in-scope, out of scope, or if updates are warranted.

Status of cases will also be published on the 2020 PCGQR webpage.  

Will the review change 2020 Census results?

Results from the 2020 PCGQR will not alter 2020 Census apportionment or redistricting results or other 2020 Census data products.

If the review process finds discrepancies in these population counts supported by sufficient documentation, approved revisions to the group quarters population will be provided to the Population Estimates Program. These updates will be incorporated into the base population for upcoming vintages of estimates, as the production schedule allows.

If it’s going to affect population estimates, how will that affect my community?

The estimates developed from the updated population base are used for myriad reasons including determining state and local funding and informing community planning. They will also be used by the American Community Survey and the Puerto Rico Community Survey, as survey controls so that the population totals from the surveys conform to the updated population estimates. These surveys provide communities with current information on social, economic, housing, and demographic topics.

What type of group quarters will the Census Bureau review?

Group quarters are places where people live or stay in a group living arrangement, owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. These services may include custodial or medical care as well as other types of assistance, and residency is commonly restricted to those receiving these services.

  • Correctional facilities for adults
  • Juvenile facilities
  • Nursing facilities/skilled-nursing facilities
  • Other institutional facilities
  • College/university student housing
  • Military quarters
  • Emergency and transitional shelters (with sleeping facilities) for people experiencing homelessness
  • Group homes intended for adults
  • Residential treatment centers for adults
  • Workers’ group living quarters and Job Corps centers
  • Living quarters for victims of natural disasters

Service-based locations such as soup kitchens, mobile food vans, non-sheltered outdoor locations and sensitive group quarter types such as domestic violence shelters are not included. The 2020 Census Definitions and Code List includes further information about each type of group quarters.

Because the 2020 Census took place during COVID-19 lockdowns and disrupted where people were living, how were you able to count populations like college students?

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau had a special operation called the “Group Quarters Operation” to count people who live in group quarters. We worked closely with administrators of these facilities ahead of time so they could assist us in obtaining an accurate count.

Specifically for college students – Whether they lived on or off campus, or at home with family, the Census Bureau worked hard to ensure students were counted. Amongst other efforts, the Census Bureau worked directly with college representatives to ensure it accounted for those living in both on- and off-campus student housing such as dorms, university owned and privately-owned apartments for students, and fraternity and sorority housing.

Our city is a college town. During COVID, students left their dorms and moved back home but they eventually came back. They were missed during the census count. How will this review rectify that?

The Census Bureau worked with representatives from colleges and universities to count students who lived in student housing - both on- or off-campus to be counted at the student housing where they normally resided. Students who lived in an off-campus residence not specifically for college students – such as a private house or apartment- were sent invitations to respond to the 2020 Census and be counted at their off-campus address.

See the “Counting College Students” fact sheet for more information on how the Census Bureau counted college students in the 2020 Census.

Colleges and universities who believe the 2020 Census count is not accurate should contact their local government about submitting a 2020 PCGQR review request.

I am the dean of admissions at a college. I’m worried about the undercount of our student population. Can I submit a review request?

We encourage colleges and universities to reach out to their local governments for assistance with 2020 PCGQR submissions and providing supporting documentation. Cases will only be accepted from local governments.

Will the 2030 Census offer a 2030 PCGQR operation?

The 2020 PCGQR was created in response to the 2020 Census and the unique challenges we faced during the pandemic. There are no current plans to offer a unique operation where local governments can request a review of official 2030 group quarters population counts. 

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Page Last Revised - June 6, 2022
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