Peter Wagner, Executive Director
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Usual residence rule has been modified for other special populations and can be changed for prisoners too

by Peter Wagner, November 3, 2003  

The Census cites its “usual residence rule” as requiring it to count prisoners at the prison. That’s true as far as it goes in regards to prisoners, but the Census and Congress have the power to change this rule, doing so for college students in the 1950s and for military personnel and other groups many times since 1900. Currently, college students living at the college are counted at the college, but prior to the 1950 Census, they were counted at their parent’s home. (Boarding school students younger than college age are still counted at home.)

The Census has been even more inconsistent with overseas military:

With the exception of the 1900 census, the Bureau only began to count overseas military personnel in 1970, allocating them to … their “home of record,” namely the state to which they declared they would return at the end of their service. In 1980, … the Bureau ceased allocating overseas federal employees to particular states. However, the federal employees still considered themselves to be “usual residents” of the United States, and for that reason, among others, the Bureau again reversed its policy in 1990 and allocated federal employees living overseas according to their “home of record.”

The counting of overseas missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and applying them back to their home states has likewise been changed, counting the missionaries from 1910 to 1940 but not before or after.

The usual residence rule is not an inflexible constitutional mandate. It is a rule within the power of Congress and the Census to modify based on new situations and needs. The usual residence rule should be modified once again so that the Census can more accurately count our nation’s large and growing prison population where they truly reside: with their home communities.

Franklin v. Massachusetts 505 U.S. 788 (1992). Second Amended Complaint, Utah v Evans, Utah D.C. paragraph 32.

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