Changing the Approach for Counting Deployed Military Troops

A commonly asked question is "how does the U.S. Census Bureau count college students and other individuals (e.g. "snowbird" retirees) who spend part of the year living in one area and another part of the year living somewhere else?"


The U.S. Census Bureau counts people as residents of a given location based on their "usual residence."  Under this approach, usual residence is determined by assessing where individuals spend a majority of their time during a given year.  For example, university students are counted as residents of the city where the university is located.  Despite criticism by various civil rights groups, incarcerated individuals are counted as residents where the prison facility is located.  These approaches remain consistent between the 2010 and 2020 censuses.


Census 2020 and Deployed Military Troops

In early 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau released a memo highlighting a change in how the Bureau will count some active-duty members of the military in Census 2020.  In Census 2010, military troops deployed overseas (not stationed) were counted according to their address provided at enlistment.  In Census 2020, these troops will be counted as residents of the military base or port from which they are deployed.


The Takeaway

Military installations are geographically distributed across the U.S., but the number of active-duty and reserve service members varies by state.  Areas with military bases or ports that deploy a large number of troops will likely see an increase in their resident population, all things being equal.


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