Data from the 2020 Census was released one year ago, but the window to correct errors in the decennial count will remain open until June 30, 2023. New tools from the Tennessee State Data Center can help communities identify and resolve Census Bureau processing errors.
Just over ten months remain to review the data for certain types of correctable errors and the opportunity is one that Tennessee communities that haven’t already done so should consider.
Fixing problems in the 2020 Census data that result in net population gains can also be a financial boost for cities and towns. That’s because several Tennessee state-shared revenue formulas reference the latest decennial population counts. When corrections are issued by the Bureau, they are incorporated into the state’s Certified Population Report – the official basis for the distribution.
Thus far, the City of Cleveland and Town of Whiteville are the only communities to file Census challenges, but there are likely additional locations that could benefit from the program.
Figure 1: 2020 Census challenges have been filed in in two Tennessee communities
Conducting a Municipal 2020 Census Review
To expedite a municipal review, the State Data Center has developed a three-step census data review process that is focused on locating only errors which can be submitted to 2020 Census review programs sponsored by the Census Bureau.
Data for cities and towns in the 2020 Census are intended to reflect the legal boundaries in effect on January 1, 2020. When they do not, and living quarters are located within the affected area, then a community can purse a census challenge via the Count Questions Resolution Program.
2020 Census count operations at college dormitories and nursing homes were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic creating scenarios where miscounts of “usual residents” may have occurred. GQs that were miscounted or were incorrectly located can be addressed through two different review programs.
When housing units are reported in the wrong jurisdiction, it negatively affects a city or town’s total population and can reduce revenues dispersed to communities on a per-capita basis. These errors can be corrected through the 2020 Census challenge program but locating these errors can be difficult.
Reviewing, identifying and correcting errors in 2020 Census data does not involve a recount of people. Instead, most checks are to ensure that the living quarters reported by the Census Bureau are in the correct jurisdiction.
The State Data Center’s streamlined review process targets the two Census Bureau review programs that are available.
2020 Count Question Resolution (CQR) Operation
CQR allows communities to request that the Census Bureau review a narrow set of processing errors that include:
- Incorrect corporate boundaries used in calculating the total population and housing unit counts
- Correct errors where living units (housing units and group quarters) and their inhabitants were reported at an incorrect location – such as outside a corporate limit
Post Census Group Quarters Review (PCGQR)
PCGQR is a new program designed to correct 2020 Census miscounts of residents at group quarter facilities, especially in instances where residents were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic or where facility restrictions prevented accurate enumeration.
2020 Census Undercounts Will Persist
No census is free of miscounts including omissions, duplications and people counted at the incorrect location. This is true when enumerating a city’s residents or the entire country.
Unfortunately, the state of Tennessee received news on May 18, 2022, that there had been a net -4.7 percent undercount of the state’s household population. This equates to an estimated 322,000 people that may have been excluded from the state’s decennial count.
The news raises the prospect that undercounts may have occurred in communities across the state. The agency will not release any additional information about the characteristics of undercounted people or their location in within Tennessee.
The Census Bureau’s challenge program and group quarter review programs are unlikely to shed much light on 2020 undercount. For the most part, the challenge efforts are limited to shifting the location of those properly counted in 2020 and does not attempt to enumerate people who may have been excluded.
On August 16, the Bureau will publish additional state-level information explaining how well the 2020 Census covered the state’s reported 3 million housing units. This will include information comparison between housing types, such as single and multi-dwelling units, as well owner- and renter-occupied housing.