Another census question: College students

Why are college students counted at college and not at home? Does anyone know the logic of this?

Ten years ago, my son was a junior in HS. At this time, we were making the college rounds. At one college there were a bunch of census takers in the student lounge and more in the dorm lounge. This year, I noticed that the first question is to not count students that are away at college.

So what’s the point? My son lived here, not there. Why should they get the credit? At this time of year, most students are on spring break… How is that handled?

Is it only college students? What about prep-schools (high school)?


Historically, the census count was to be done on April 1. Wherever you were living on April 1 is where you were counted. Generally speaking college students (adults) live away from home. OTOH, a high school prep is still a minor (and dependent) so their legal home is where their parent(s) live, regardless of their actual location.

It seems to me that college students are spending about nine months of the year at college. It makes sense to count them where they spend most of their time.

Spring break students fill out the forms either before or after break. It’s a vacation, not a change of address.

But by that logic, I should just ignore my census forms, assuming I don’t ask my neighbor to fill it out for me (the one who presumably collected it with the rest of my mail). I’ve lived here since August, and could well be here through October. Outside-of-the-USA is where I reside most of my time. Yet… it’s not a change of address. I still maintain my house, pay Michigan taxes, and receive my mail there.

Well I agree the logic is somewhat arbitrary. I mean if I live in Illinois but counted in Minnesota, according to the census I live in Minnesota, but I have to pay out of state tuition.

Perhaps there is a study that indicates where a person graduates college is likely to become his/her new home?

So let’s say you’re home is Chicago and you go to school in Minnesota. You are contributing to MN representation in the House, for ten years, even though you’ll graduate in four years (more or less) and move away (well maybe)

But then again, it blows my mind that under the new HCR children to age 26 can be on their parents insurance. Sorry to me 26 is an adult, many times over an adult. But that’s another argument. :slight_smile:

I guess there was a reson for it perhaps in the old days you did tend to live in the state where you graduated college from and it never got changed.

Wow, this is becoming convuluted:

I guess I’m not going to be counted in the census. But… am I really living outside of the US? According to the taxes I file for 2010 and the amendement that I’ll file for my 2009 taxes, the IRS will have recognized me as having a bona fide foreign residence.

But then the Census’ site mentions the “concept of usual residence,” and gives all kinds of examples that don’t apply, or maybe could apply, and could be in contradiction of their own advice that college students fill out information for their schools.

For example, in the “concept of usual residence,” what’s the time span? My company regards my travel here as a business trip, and regards me as a business traveller. But I’ve been gone longer than any two semesters of university.

By the way, what’s the time limit for getting those forms back to the Census people? “Census day” is April first, but not having the actual packet, I know nothing of the details.

Any child living at a boarding school should, if I’ve got the gist of things, be counted at their school and not their home. It has to do with dorms and group living arrangements. I’m not entirely clear on the details as I’ve had only 1 of 3 days of training, and most of today concerned “administrative” stuff like work hours, rules, payroll, and such. Suffice to say the process for people living in group residences like a dorm is different than for non-group residences.

This would also mean a college student living at home and commuting to their school every day should, indeed, be counted as at home. You see, it’s not being in school that makes the difference, it’s living in a dorm.

The government does whatever it can to collect its money (IRS). However, the government will see to it that if you do not fit the criteria to spend any of it on you, it won’t (Census Bureau).

It makes perfect sense, since most college students won’t be living at home again - I mean in normal times, not now. I got counted in college in 1970, and Cambridge made as much sense as anywhere since I never went back home. Lots of people do hang around college towns, but probably not enough to make a difference.

The only way the college thing makes sense to me is if they catalog college students separately, and use some statistic on them to estimate how many of them will go back home, and how many will go elsewhere.

One of the things to consider is that the census is counting folks more as a group than as individuals.

If Podunk U is in a small town where the number of college students is equal to the number of folks in the town, the town will still need infrastructure and services to accomodate the population as a whole. Transportation, subsidized housing, etc are somewhat dependent upon the census population.

IIRC, college students have the option of voting either in their home precinct (where they resided before going to school) or in their college precinct. The census’ original purpose was for representation in government and being counted where you are most likely to vote makes sense.

The census doesn’t care where you will live, they care about where you live on “census day” (April 1).

They also don’t care where your drivers license is issued or where you pay taxes.

The census is about figuring out where people are spending time, at least partially so that things like hospitals, schools, fire departments etc. will be provided at the needed levels.

College students are counted at their colleges, because they are using the public services in that location.

I went to a college of about 20k students in a town of 25k people. If the students had been counted at their parents’ homes, then funding levels for the college town would have been set for 25k people. But for 9 months out of the year, there were actually 45k people in town. The hospital and bus services had to be built around 45k people.

While some communities may get federal monies doled out to them directly, the vast majority of the concerns that you mention are funded on the local, county, and even state level. The federal government doesn’t need to know that the 25k person town has 20k students there. That’s an issue for the city council, the county planners, or even the state level, not for the federal government.

Think of how incredibly inefficient it would be to micromanage every square mile of the country from the federal level.

The thing is, all those local agencies/government levels get their information from the Federal census - if you don’t answer the Feds every 10 years you aren’t counted at all for those lower levels of government and planning.

They shouldn’t. That would be incompetent. There are places that have growth and losses. They don’t wait ten years to change their funding plans. The townships in my county have had (until the last year) massive growth. New schools are built. New parks are built. New roads are built. That wasn’t the result of waiting 10 years for a census!

Local schools, parks, and roads are rarely paid for completely with local funds, and they generally have long lead times, anyway (3-5 years of planning, at a minimum). They will likely be receiving some state funding, and the States likewise receive funding from the federal government. The amount of funding that the local town receives from the state and that the state receives from the federal government is indeed based on the federal census, at least as a starting point.

That being said, the local, state, and federal government also gather data from other sources such as property tax rolls, state and federal tax returns, etc. that may lead to reallocations of funds between censuses.

However, the federal census is considered to be the gold standard for counting people. Property taxes don’t track renters. Income tax returns don’t track people who don’t file taxes (such as college students with income under the limit), or people in the country illegally (but who still use public services, like roads, for instance).

I agree with you. My point is, the Census people are trying to scare people into turning in their census forms by implying that without an accurate federal count, they’re going to lose all of these fantastic local services, which is an outright mis-truth. Certainly some small portion of federal funding eventually filters itself down to the local level, but the census is simply not the most important tool or even best tool for the local planners.

Let me ask (I’m geniously curious): why “suprises” has the census ever turned up? Important surprises, that is. Limited to, say, the last 5 censuses which should correspond roughly with our abilities to keep modern records and track trends.

The goad of the Census isn’t to find “surprises.” It’s more of a recalibration tool. Every survey that’s done in the US uses information on the population from the US Census Bureau to make sure the sampling is done correctly. And when I say any survey, I mean it. Market research, political polling, scientific/academic research should all use Census data to assess the degree to which the sample surveyed is representative of the population. Between decennial censuses, the Census Bureau spends a lot of time creating the best possible population estimates, based on the previous census, fertility rates, mortality rates, and migration patterns. Still, we need to recalibrate with an actual count every now and then!