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Group Quarters and Residence Rules for Income & Poverty

Data users interested in comparing poverty levels and rates across surveys should be aware of how group quarters and residency status are treated in each survey.

Definition of Group Quarters

The Census Bureau classifies all people not living in housing units (house, apartment, mobile home, rented rooms) as living in group quarters. There are two types of group quarters:

Institutional, such as

  • correctional facilities
  • nursing homes
  • or mental hospitals

Non-Institutional, such as

  • college dormitories
  • military barracks
  • group homes
  • missions
  • or shelters

Differences by Survey

Annual Social & Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC)

The CPS ASEC sample includes only noninstitutional group quarters. However, it only includes individuals who are “usual residents” at a sample address. "Usual" is defined as the place where the person lives and sleeps most of the time, or the place he or she considers to be his or her usual residence. Armed Forces personnel are included if they reside off post or with at least one other civilian on post. As of the 2018 CPS ASEC, the non-institutional group quarters sample no longer includes student quarters.

American Community Survey (ACS)

Starting in 2006, the ACS sample includes both institutional and non-institutional quarters. Additionally, anyone residing for at least two months at an address is included in the sample. Estimates of poverty derived from the ACS exclude people living in institutional group quarters, as well as people living in non-institutional college dormitories or military barracks. Prior to 2006, the ACS did not include any group quarters in its sample.

Decennial Census

The Decennial Census includes both institutional and non-institutional group quarters. Individuals are counted at their "usual residence."


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