A Special Census is a basic enumeration of population, housing units, group quarters and transitory locations, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau at the request of a governmental unit. They are conducted on a cost-reimbursable basis. The U.S. Census Bureau's authority to conduct Special Censuses is specified in Title 13, United States Code, Section 196.
For Special Census purposes, a governmental unit is defined as the government of any state, county, city, or other political subdivision within a state, or the government of the District of Columbia — or the government of any possession or area — including political subdivisions, American Indian Reservations, or Alaskan Native villages.
A Special Census may be conducted on subjects covered by the censuses, provided for in Title 13 of the United States Code.
Data collection for a Special Census is conducted using an update/enumerate methodology. During update/enumerate, enumerators canvass their assignment areas using census maps and address registers that contain addresses and location information for housing units. The enumerators update the address lists and census maps by adding housing units not already listed, making corrections to address information, updating maps with feature changes, and deleting listings that do not exist. The Special Census Enumerator Questionnaire is similar to the 2010 Census short form. The Special Census Enumerator Questionnaire is used to collect data on all persons living in a household.
If requested, during Special Census operations the Census Bureau will also enumerate people living in group situations. The structures that house people living in groups are called Group Quarters. Some examples of Group Quarters include colleges, hospitals, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and military installations. A Group Quarters may contain regular housing units as well.
For Group Quarters enumeration, we complete an Individual Census Report (questionnaire) for each individual housed in a particular unit. The questionnaire used is also similar to the 2010 Census short form, except there is only one person's data on each form.
People living in Transitory Locations are also counted. Transitory Locations are places where people who have no usual home elsewhere live. Transitory Locations are Recreational (RV) parks (not mobile home parks), Marinas, Commercial and/or public Campgrounds, Racetracks, Carnivals, and some Hotels or Motels (with long term residents).
Local officials frequently request a Special Census when there has been a significant population change in their community due to annexation or growth. In some states, an increase in population that is established by Official Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau may result in an increase in state revenue sharing or other benefits.
The Special Census program is typically on hiatus during Decennial Census years. During the hiatus the U.S. Census Bureau updates program materials and systems. The Census Bureau has been authorized to conduct Special Censuses since 1903; the nation's first Special Census was conducted April 15, 1915.
Although the method in which Special Censuses are conducted has changed, the basic objective remains the same - to obtain updated population and housing counts.