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Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census
businesses can lead to employee’s living in foreign sites for weeks or more. Generally, questions may be raised as to why federal government employees should be counted but not American employees of multinational companies.
Mills (1993:1) soundly notes a “major observation” that arises from reviewing the history of overseas Americans in the census—namely, “the lack of a single conceptual thread running through the censuses concerning how Americans abroad fit into the overall decennial enumeration. It was partly this absence that led to the inconsistencies—evident in this report—in census treatment of Americans overseas.” The voluntary survey approach tried by the Bureau in 1960 and 1970—and retested in 2004—seems unlikely to produce satisfactory results. Much as is the case for prisoners and other domestic institutional populations, the quality of enumeration of overseas Americans will likely depend on the use and reliability of administrative records. In addition to the records maintained by the Defense and State Departments, one might also need to consider the employee rosters maintained by companies and religious organizations, as well as other government sources (e.g., Social Security Administration rosters of American retirees receiving checks in other nations). A useful test would involve assembling these data sources (under appropriate confidentiality agreements) and studying the resulting picture of overseas Americans, possibly comparing the results with survey measures.