News & Politics

Colleges Sent Students Home. Will That Hurt DC’s Census Numbers?

Federal money is tied to population. Census officials say they'll account for the Covid exodus.

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It’s Census Day in America. And since the COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a dramatic outflow of college students from the region, some locals have grown concerned that the federal government’s official population tally will undercount the DMV’s residents.

But according to a Census Bureau spokesperson, such concerns are being accounted for.

The spokesperson says that the Census Bureau’s residence criteria asks citizens to report where they live most of the time as of April 1, 2020—as opposed to where they are living on April 1, 2020. As a result, most students who’ve left the region on account of the pandemic should still be counted as living at their university.

In a recent press release, Census Bureau officials detailed their approach:

“College students living in on-campus housing are counted through their university as part of our Group Quarters Operation, which counts all students living in university owned housing…

In general, students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus will still be counted as part of this process.  Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria which states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time….

Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Read the full press release here.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.