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Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census
in migrant worker communities and densely populated immigrant enclaves of major cities? Should prisoners be counted in exactly the same manner, or asked the same questions, as residents of college dormitories or nursing homes?
As a guide to how different living situations should be reconciled with the “usual residence” standard, the Census Bureau maintains a set of residence rules for the decennial census. By 2000, the Census Bureau’s listing included 31 formal residence rules. The actual compilation of residence rules is rarely if ever viewed by the general public. Instead, census respondents typically see only the instructions and questions on the census form, designed to distill the basic residence concepts and lead respondents to provide answers consistent with the “usual residence” standard. Though the full set of rules is rarely seen by census respondents, a clear concept of the meaning of residence, coupled with an effective mapping of that concept to the actual conduct of the census, is crucial to the accuracy of a census.
1–A THE PANEL AND ITS CHARGE
In 2004 the U.S. Census Bureau requested that the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Research Council convene a Panel on Residence Rules in the Decennial Census, with the following charge:
This study will examine census residence rule issues and make recommendations for research and testing to develop the most important residence rules for the 2010 census. Recommendations will address potential ways to modify census residence rules to facilitate more accurate counting of the population or identify the reasons why the rules should stay the same.
The panel would consider residence rules in terms of how they contribute to or inhibit an accurate count of the population. Its deliberations may include the appropriate geographic location for enumerating each person but would not include the issue of who should be enumerated in the census—for example, whether civilian citizens who live abroad or undocumented immigrants should be included.1
The latter issue, as to whether illegal immigrants—or, for that matter, any non-U.S. citizen—should be included in the census count, remains a contentious one. The issue was the subject of major legal challenges in the 1980 and 1990 censuses (Federation for American Immigration Reform v. Klutznick and Ridge v. Verity, respectively). A segment of the 1986 Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics workshop on residence rules (described in Section 1–B) provoked a lengthy discussion on this question. Most recently, H.J.Res. 53 introduced in the 109th Congress proposes that the Constitution be amended so that census totals used to apportion the House of Representatives “shall be determined by counting the number of persons in each State who are citizens of the United States.” As of August 2006, the bill had not been acted upon by the House Judiciary Committee; the House Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census (of the Government Reform committee) held hearings on the bill in December 2005. (See Massey and Capoferro  for a recent overview of the limitations of current data sets in examining the size and trends in undocumented migration.)