Actual Constituents: Students and Political Clout in New York

By Peter Wagner
October 2004

Since 1950, the Census Bureau has counted students as residents of their college town. This makes sense for a number of reasons.

First, students need to be counted somewhere. College students are at the college at least 8 months a year and there is no predicting whether the students will stay in the college town, visit their parents, or go elsewhere to work during the summers.

Second, the students willingly go to the college town. While some colleges are more economically and socially self-reliant than others, in most college communities the students are a part of the larger community's social and economic life. Local businesses welcome the students. Long-time residents rent apartments and sell products to students and they hire the students part-time to help run their businesses. Students become a part of the community that surrounds their on and off-campus residences.

Third, it doesn't matter that the majority of the students don't intend to remain in the college town forever. They intend to remain for the time being. That is not only the legal definition of residence, it matches the actual practice of the rest of the community whose voting rights are not being challenged. The modern United States is a nation of migrants. According to the Census, 45% of Americans moved in the last half of the 1990s.

High resolution versions of the maps in the report

These files are 300 dpi TIFF files suitable for printing in other publications. Please credit the Prison Policy Initiative.

Background material on student voting

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