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City of Boston challenging the City's census count

The population count likely omits significant portions of Boston’s student and foreign-born populations, as well as individuals living in correctional facilities.

Mayor Kim Janey yesterday sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau announcing the City of Boston’s intention to challenge the 2020 Census count. Based on research provided by the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s (BPDA) Research Division, the population count provided to Boston of 675,647 likely omits significant portions of Boston’s college and university student and foreign born populations, as well as individuals living in correctional facilities. 

“Every Boston resident deserves an accurate Census count. This is required by our Constitution and is critical for Boston to receive its fair share of federal funding to support our most vulnerable populations and elected representation at all levels,” said Mayor Janey. “An accurate census also ensures future planning accurately reflects the needs of our neighborhoods. We recognize the enormous challenges the Census Bureau faced conducting the 2020 Census during a pandemic, and we look forward to working together to obtain an accurate count for Boston.” 

In response to the evacuation of the majority of Boston’s college and university students in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau instructed colleges and universities to report spring semester dorm populations to the Census count. However, analysis of data collected by the City shows an undercount of approximately 5,000 students.  

Additionally, analysis of records provided by the Suffolk County Department of Corrections show that approximately 500 individuals living in Boston’s correctional facilities on April 1, 2020 were omitted from Boston’s Census count. 

Boston also has concerns related to the Household Population Counts. In the 2010 Census, self response rates in all of Boston’s census tracts exceeded 50 percent. During the 2020 Census, 29 census tracts in Boston had a self response rate below 50 percent. The tracts with low response rates had either large shares of college and university students living off campus or large shares of foreign born residents. The drop in response rates was likely due to factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and distrust created by a potential citizenship question. 

The City of Boston will provide the necessary supporting documentation when formal guidelines for challenges are released by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Boston Planning & Development Agency Research Division 

The BPDA's Research department compiles and analyzes current, historical, and comparative data on the City of Boston. The department conducts research on Boston's economy, population, and commercial markets for all departments of the BPDA, the City of Boston, and related organizations.The Research Division strives to understand the current environment of the City to produce quality research and targeted information that will inform and benefit the residents and businesses of Boston.

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