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Ethnographic Study of the Group Quarters Population in the 2010 Census: Prisons for Adults and Juvenile Correctional Facilities

Michelle Inderbitzin and Anna Y. Chan


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the factors that shape the ability of the U.S. Census Bureau to accurately count individuals confined to state juvenile correctional facilities and prisons. The preparation and process of the 2010 enumeration was observed at both the agency level and the institution level. The primary agencies and sites included in this study included one state’s Juvenile Authority (JA) and a juvenile correctional facility for females, and the same state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) and four state prisons for men. In contrast to many other Group Quarters, a primary responsibility of both juvenile correctional facilities and prisons is security and public safety. Thus, the institutions and their central agencies have clear records of which individuals are in which facility at any given time. Virtually all juvenile correctional facilities and state prisons do “counts” at least four times a day (Sykes, 1958; Jacobson-Hardy, 2002; Johnson, 2002; Inderbitzin, 2007), and corrections workers are responsible for keeping close track of the youth or inmates in their units. The challenges of enumerating the population of correctional facilities, then, are generally not in capturing accurate names and numbers of residents in any given institution. Instead, safety concerns and the closed culture of correctional facilities provide the obstacles for enumeration and Census Coverage Measurement (CCM) studies.


Michelle Inderbitzin and Anna Y. Chan. (2013). Ethnographic Study of the Group Quarters Population in the 2010 Census: Prisons for Adults and Juvenile Correctional Facilities. Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2013-08). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

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

Published online: March 7, 2013
Last revised: March 7, 2013


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