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January 14, 2020

Moving and the census: What you need to know

  • Tips and tricks

Some markers that help us delineate the passage of time stick out in our memories very clearly. New Year's Eve celebrations and birthdays help us keep track of yearly transitions. We're used to the idea that every four years, there will be a new presidential election, or, on the international stage, the Olympics will return.

As the decades pass, we grow accustomed to another anniversary: the U.S. Census. In 2020, everybody living in the United States will once again be counted. It seems pretty straightforward, but extenuating circumstances can complicate things.

Where should you be counted if you're moving in 2020?

Get counted where you live on Census Day

Regardless of when you move, you should be counted where you live on April 1, 2020, which is known as Census Day.

That's all well and good for people who move sometime between January 1 and March 31, or from April 2 to the end of the year, but what about people who actually move on Census Day?

Guidance from the Census Bureau says that people who move into their new residence on April 1 should be counted there, while those who are moving out of their old residence, but who have not yet moved into their new home, should be counted at the residence they are leaving.

Special circumstances that impact census counting

Moving is one factor that can impact the census count, but to make sure that everybody is counted only once, you may have to navigate around other concerns.

For instance, what about college students?

This one gets a little bit tricky. Though they may split their time between home visits and living in a dorm, college students should be counted in the place where they live and sleep the majority of the time, despite where they actually are on Census Day. Most often, this will be in student housing or their off-campus home, not their parents' house.

College students who attend school abroad should not be counted in their parents' home either. In fact, they should not be counted by the 2020 census at all. It's important to remember that the census is not a count of citizens. It's a count of people who currently live in the United States.

Military personnel who are temporarily deployed overseas, however, should be counted at their normal U.S. residence. If they are stationed in barracks or other group living arrangements in the United States, they can be counted there.

The importance of responding to the census

It's critically important that every person living in the country is counted by the census.

Census data is considered private. It is used to determine how resources are apportioned and to establish how government representation should be allocated. For example, if a state's population declines, they could lose seats in the House of Representatives. In the interest of fairness, undercounting residents should not artificially alter that readjustment.

Additionally, researchers and businesses use data provided by the Census Bureau to help them make decisions and advance our collective understanding of the country and local jurisdictions.

How do I respond to the census?

In the lead-up to Census Day, you will likely be contacted by the Census Bureau through the mail. Under most circumstances, to complete the census, you will then respond to a questionnaire through your preferred method of communication: online, over the phone or by mail.

The questionnaire consists of a series of simple questions to determine the number of people living with you, their relationship to you and personal information like their age, date of birth, sex and their racial and ethnic background.

Managing your move can be a complicated business for many reasons, but we can reduce some of the complexity for you. Reach out to a nearby Atlas agent today to find out how they can assist.