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West Virginia University

WVU demographics expert explains potential impact Coronavirus response for Census data

24-Mar-2020 8:50 AM EDT, by West Virginia University

Dr. Christiadi, a research associate with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research, explains how the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak and the U.S. Census threatens accurate data collection and is particularly confusing now for college students, who should be counted at their schools, even if they have been sent home to learn remotely because of the virus. The form may be completed online at


“The invitation to participate in the 2020 Census was mailed around the same time as students were leaving for their spring break. If the mails didn’t reach the students on time, the follow-up mails may never reach them either because students stay at their home after the spring break. This could lead to massive non-responses, which in turn could cause costly follow-ups.”

“People are counted based on their residence, defined as the place where they live and sleep most of the time. College students are most of the time counted as residents of the city where their college is. Now that many students stay with their parents during the time when parents are responding to the census questionnaire, they may be recorded as living with their parents instead of living in their apartments or dorms.”

Audio file: “We have among the lowest response rates in the nation…”

“We have among the lowest response rates in the nation. It’s been pretty consistent, unfortunately. It’s obviously challenging because we have a lot of households that do not have city-style addresses, so we need to reach out to the community and we need to involve some local leaders to encourage their people to respond to the Census.” 

Audio file: “The communities with the risk will be those that do not respond…”

“The communities with the risk will be those that do not respond because it will lead to an undercount, and if you’re number is lower, you don’t have as much representation. That also can translate into lower federal funding. That’s one of the ways that the federal government distributes or allocates their money.” 

Audio file: “There might be five or six other states that will claim first before West Virginia…”

“There might be five or six other states that will claim first before West Virginia, so most likely we’re anticipating that will lose one seat. They will have to draw new congressional districts to divide into two instead of three, so there are going to be some changes in the state.” — Dr. Christiadi, research associate with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research




Census Bureau Statement on Modifying 2020 Census Operations to Make Sure College Students are Counted

U. S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham on Operational Updates

Video: What College Students Need to Know to be Counted in the Right Place

Respond to the Census online


West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, are of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.






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