By the end of the U.S. head count last year, the Census Bureau had no data for almost a fifth of the nation’s occupied college dorms, nursing homes and prisons, requiring the statistical agency to make eleventh-hour calls to facilities in an effort to collect information or use a last-resort statistical method to fill in gaps.
Residents of 43,000 of the 227,000 occupied dorms, prisons, military barracks, homeless shelters, group homes and nursing homes remained uncounted as late as December, according to new documents and slide presentations released recently by the Census Bureau in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a Republican redistricting advocacy group.
The documents hint at the scope of the challenges the bureau faced in conducting the massive count in the midst of a global pandemic, an effort made more difficult by wildfires, hurricanes and attempts by the Trump administration to interfere with the census.
The facilities — known collectively to the bureau as group quarters — were among the most difficult places to count people during the 2020 census because the pandemic forced colleges to shutter dorms and send students home, and nursing homes and other facilities restricted access in an effort to protect vulnerable residents from the virus.
Bureau officials are confident that they have since filled in the gaps using a statistical method they consider reliable, though they acknowledge that the challenge was formidable.