Group Quarters (GQs) are places where people live or stay, in a group living arrangement that is owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. These services may include custodial or medical care, as well as other types of assistance, and residency is commonly restricted to those receiving these services. People living in GQs usually are not related to each other. GQs include such places as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities, workers dormitories, and facilities for people experiencing homelessness. GQs are defined according to the housing and/or services provided to residents, and are identified by census GQ type codes.
In January 2006, the American Community Survey (ACS) was expanded to include the population living in GQ facilities. The ACS GQ sample encompasses 12 independent samples; like the housing unit (HU) sample, a new GQ sample is introduced each month. The GQ data collection lasts only 6 weeks and does not include a formal nonresponse follow-up operation. The GQ data collection operation is conducted in two phases. First, U.S. Census Bureau Field Representatives (FRs) conduct interviews with the GQ facility contact person or administrator of the selected GQ (GQ level), and second, the FR conducts interviews with a sample of individuals from the facility (person level).
The GQ-level data collection instrument is an automated Group Quarters Facility Questionnaire (GQFQ). Information collected by the FR using the GQFQ during the GQ-level interview is used to determine or verify the type of facility, population size, and the sample of individuals to be interviewed. FRs conduct GQ-level data collection at approximately 20,000 individual GQ facilities each year.
A list of the GQ facilities (and their respective type codes) that are in scope for the 2009 ACS can be found in the 2009 Code List.
Though the American Community Survey (ACS) was expanded to include the population living in GQ facilities in 2006 the ACS began field testing early. The pretest in 2001 prevented the ACS from going into 2006 without determining whether or not the new processes, type codes, and procedures would produce the desired outcome for the ACS GQ data collection operation.
In 2001, the ACS GQ operational staff and other ACS staff implemented a number of changes in the GQ operation, the greatest of which was developing an automated Group Quarters Facility Questionnaire (GQFQ). The staff developed the GQFQ based on the decennial Other Living Quarters (OLQ) questionnaire used in the 2004 Census test. However, in order to make that questionnaire script fit with the ACS operation, the developers made some modifications, such as dropping the listing component, and adding the ability to capture multiple GQ types within the special place or GQ sampled.
Along with the introduction of an automated GQFQ, the ACS made the decision to use the revised GQ definitions planned for Census 2010, even though the definitions of GQ types were still evolving. The pretest used a draft version of the GQ definitions that existed at the end of November 2004. Since these definitions will continue to evolve over the next several years, the ACS needed a GQFQ that could easily adopt future revisions to the definitions. Thus, the developers designed a flexible GQFQ. It was through this flexibility that group quarter types have been able to be added or dropped (e.g. YMCA/YWCA and hostels).
The total group quarters population in the ACS may not be comparable with Census 2000 because there are some Census 2000 GQ types that were out of scope in the ACS such as domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, regularly scheduled mobile food vans, targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations, crews of maritime vessels and living quarters for victims of natural disasters. Also, there are some Census 2000 GQ type categories that are no longer valid (residential care facility providing Protective Oversight, hospitals/wards for the chronically ill and hospitals/wards for drug/alcohol abuse). The exclusion of these GQ types from the ACS may result in a small bias in some ACS estimates to the extent that the excluded population is different from the included population. Furthermore, only a sample of GQ facilities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico are selected for the ACS. ACS controls the GQ sample at the state level only. Therefore, for lower levels of geography, particularly when there are relatively few GQs in a geographic area, the ACS estimate of the GQ population may vary from the estimate from Census 2000.
When comparing the 2009 ACS data with 2008 ACS data the data should be compared with caution at the National and State level. It should not be compared below the State level because the weighting for the group quarters (GQ) population is not controlled below the state level. Because of this users may observe greater fluctuations in year-to-year ACS estimates of the GQ population at sub-state levels than at state levels. The causes of these fluctuations typically are the result of either GQs that have closed or where the current population of the GQ is significantly different than the expected population as reflected on the sampling frame. Substantial changes in the ACS GQ estimates can impact ACS estimates of total population characteristics for areas where either the GQ population is a substantial proportion of the total population or where the GQ population may have very different characteristics than the total population as a whole. Users can assess the impact that year-to-year changes in sub-state GQ total population estimates have on the changes in total ACS population estimates by accessing Table B26001 on American Fact Finder. Users should also use their local knowledge to help determine whether the year-to-year change in the ACS estimate represents a real change in the GQ population or may be the result of the lack of adequate population controls for sub-state areas.
When comparing ACS GQ data across the years that group quarters data have been collected, it must be noted that beginning in 2008 military transient quarters, YMCA / YWCA and hostels were no longer in scope. These data were collected in 2006 and 2007.