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Part 3: Boundary Housing Unit Review

A 2020 Census “challenge” does not involve a recount. It’s a chance to verify the people and housing units that were counted are reported in the right city or town.

After enumeration activities for the 2020 Census concluded on October 15, 2020, no additional data can be collected. But, certain types of 2020 Census processing errors can still be corrected through the Count Question Resolution (CQR) program.

One type of error that can be fixed are housing units reported in the wrong jurisdiction. These errors can negatively affect a city or town’s total population and impact revenues dispersed on a per capita basis.

Overview of Part 3 Review

Most housing units and their associated population are reported in the correct census block, but errors can occur. The third part of an effective municipal review involves a detailed examination of census blocks along the corporate limit to identify housing erroneously placed outside the city or town’s boundaries.

Only blocks along the corporate boundary should be reviewed for potential housing unit misallocations. Housing units that are improperly reported as being outside city or town boundaries may be eligible for resolution through the Count Question Resolution program.

The Census Bureau considers misallocated housing units that do not affect an incorporated place’s total population as out of scope for the CQR program.

Examples of Eligible and Ineligible Living Quarter Errors

Aerial photograph in Murfreesboro showing misallocated housing units in 2020 Census

Figure 1: Misallocated Housing Units Within the Municipality is not Eligible for CQR. This image shows 302 housing units that are misallocated to the incorrect census block. A newly constructed apartment complex along Veterans Parkways on the east side of Murfreesboro was reported as being located in an adjacent block north just north of its actual location. Although this is a likely a census processing error, both blocks are within Murfreesboro’s jurisdiction the error has no affect the city’s total population.

Aerial photo of Hardeman County Correction Facility showing reported location in 2020 Census

Figure 2:  Misallocated Group Quarter Outside Town Limit Is Eligible for CQR. In Whiteville, the 1,958 inmates at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility were incorrectly reported outside of the town’s limits in the 2020 Census. This qualifies as a CQR case because correction affected the town’s population total.

Strategies and Data for Identifying Misallocated Housing Units

Identifying housing units whose location has been erroneously reported can be a tedious task. To aid in the review, an interactive map containing three important layers that are useful when identifying misallocated housing units. These layers include:

Layer 1:  Total Housing Units Per Census Block

This layer shows the total number of housing units identified in the 2020 Census for each census block
Along the corporate boundary, identify areas where the number of residential rooftops in the aerial photo is substantially different than the reported units. Look for areas where housing units might been improperly reported outside the city or town boundary.

Layer 2:  2010 to 2020 Estimated Change in Housing Units Per Block

Net change in the total number of housing units that were reported in the 2010 and 2020 decennial censuses.
Along the corporate boundary, identify areas where unexpected decreases in the number of housing units occurred between 2010 and 2020. Pay special attention to decreases inside the corporate boundary and a corresponding increases outside the boundary.

NOTE:  Because many census block boundaries change each decade, a mathematical formula was used to “crosswalk” the 2010 blocks to 2020 boundaries. Therefore the number of 2010 housing units and the calculation of net change should be considered an estimate.

Layer 3:  Difference Between 2020 Census Housing Units and SDC Estimated Housing Units Per Block

Prior to the 2020 Census, the State Data Center developed a statewide inventory of housing units. These data were used in a pre-2020 Census operation called Count Review.
Subtracting the State Data Center’s estimate of housing units from the 2020 Census housing unit counts can show instances where housing units were counted but reported in the wrong location.

NOTE:  The quality of the SDC’s housing unit estimates varies from county to county and is dependent upon a data availability and local practices:

  • Use of address types that distinguish between residential and non-residential uses
  • The availability of parcel-based land use data and other administrative records which can help confirm residential uses at an address
  • Whether or not addressing entity issues house numbers prior to the construction of a dwelling unit

Part 3 Housing Unit Review Procedures

View map full screen

  1. Type the name of the community of interest into the search box located in the top right corner of the application.
  2. Select the city/town name from the dropdown. The map will zoom to the selected community.
  3. Zoom in more closely using the +/- buttons at the top right of the map. Rolling the mouse wheel or pinching the map on a touch screen can also be used to zoom. Pan the map by clicking and dragging in the desired direction.
  4. Using the zoom and pan tools navigate the map to an area along the corporate limit to view an area large enough to contain blocks just outside and just inside the corporate limit.
  5. Click on a census block to view details of the housing unit counts.
  6. Use the three housing unit layers and the strategies described in the Overview, look for evidence of housing units that physically within the corporate limit but are erroneously reported as being outside the boundary. To change the visible layer click the 👁 icon to the left of the layer name in the map.
  7. Navigate along the entire length of the corporate limit, looking for blocks in unincorporated areas or in adjoining communities where housing units may have been erroneously reported in the incorrect jurisdiction.
  8. If misallocated housing units are encountered and sufficient population is present in the affected area then the preparation of a CQR case may be warranted depending on the estimated population within the affected area.

Submitting a CQR Housing Unit Case

The Census Bureau’s CQR Participant Guide and Frequently Asked Questions documents provide detailed instructions about how to prepare and submit a case. Documentation requirements for a housing unit case generally include:

  • List of blocks that are contested containing the reported housing unit counts and the corrected housing unit counts.
  • Other supporting documentation confirming that the disputed housing units existed and were available for occupancy on April 1, 2020.