Massachusetts Population Estimates Program

For More Information

  • Susan Strate
  • Senior Program Manager, Population Estimates Program
  • (413) 577-0753
  • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Projects and Initiatives

The Population Estimate Program’s (PEP) goal is to ensure that the population estimates produced by the U.S. Census Bureau for Massachusetts are as accurate as possible and inclusive of the most up-to-date information.

PEP participates in several programs that ensure this accuracy. Our activities involve robust primary data collection, data analysis, communication with the U.S. Census Bureau, and preparation of materials to be submitted in accordance with Bureau guidelines. The program is organized into several major components including Population Estimates; Population Projections; Participation in the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates; Group Quarters Survey; Housing Unit Review Survey; Technical Support for Census Challenges; and Decennial Census Preparation and Review Activities.

For more information:
Please contact Susan Strate at (413) 577-0753 or

Population Estimates
PEP prepares independent population estimates as a check against the Census Bureau’s annual estimates for Massachusetts cities and towns. Our goal is to produce the most accurate population estimates for Massachusetts municipalities, using the most current component data available. The data we collect for this purpose is also shared with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Estimates Division to ensure their official estimates for Massachusetts geographies resemble ours to the greatest extent possible.

Our program also produces summary reports on U.S. Census estimates for Massachusetts geographies. These reports extract Massachusetts data from the most recent Census releases and put this information into a comparative context for Massachusetts researchers and planners.

Population Projections
By agreement with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, PEP has produced population projections for all Massachusetts municipalities at 5-year intervals to 2035, using a model developed by Dr. Henry Renski, Associate Professor of Regional Planning at UMass Amherst and the PEP team. Detailed projections are available for download by sex and 5-year age group for each city, town, county, and state region along with a summary report on the forecast method and the projected population growth in eight distinct Massachusetts regions.

PEP also produces specialized population projections on a contract basis, including enrollment projections; small-area, detailed population projections by age, sex, race, and ethnicity; and projections of special populations.

PEP is the official Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates (FSCPE) representative for Massachusetts and the formal mechanism by which the Commonwealth submits data updates, corrections, and challenges to the Population Estimates Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. Our goal is to ensure that the population estimates produced by the Bureau for Massachusetts are as accurate as possible and inclusive of the most up-to-date information available in our state.

Susan Strate, the PEP Senior Manager, serves as the liaison to the FSCPE, which allows for regular state interface with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Division. Many specific opportunities for the review of and input into Census Bureau estimates and components are made available to states only through the mechanism of FSCPE participation. Therefore, maintaining a liaison in this program is essential for states who wish to have a comprehensive influence over the accuracy and production of their official estimates.

Programs made available to states exclusively through FSCPE participation include the Count Review Program for by-block review of the Census Master Address File and the group quarters counts during the decennial Census; the Group Quarters, Housing Unit, and Vital Statistics Review programs, which allow state data input into official annual estimates; and opportunities to review county and sub-county population estimates before these estimates are officially released, allowing states to look for abnormal, unusual, and unexplained population changes. Other review or input opportunities also available to governments, but often facilitated or staffed by FSCPE liaisons, include Local Update of Census Address; Population Estimates Challenges to sub-county and county estimates; and the Count Question Resolution Program to correct census count data.

As an elected member of the seven-person FSCPE Steering Committee, the PEP Senior Manager is able to weigh in on how these review opportunities are made available to states, which review opportunities are most critical, and what changes are recommended by states within the programs. The PEP Senior Manager also leads the Data Input Subcommittee of the FSCPE, which works on issues of data submission and integration from states into the Bureau’s products. Finally, the PEP Senior Manager joined the newly formed FSCPE 2020 Working Group in 2017. The 2020 team consists of representatives from within the FSCPE Steering Committee, and various key divisions and offices within the U.S. Census Bureau's Decennial Programs Directorate. The core team is responsible for the identification and documentation of opportunities across the 2020 Decennial Census Program that will leverage the knowledge, experience, and expertise of the FSCPE community toward achieving the 2020 Census goals and objectives.

Group Quarters Survey
PEP conducts an annual statewide survey of persons living in group quarters (GQ) facilities in Massachusetts in order to obtain a current and accurate population count of these facilities. These updated population counts are a key input into the annual population estimates produced by the U.S. Census Bureau for Massachusetts and its municipalities. Since our first survey in 2007, PEP has verified a population of over 250,000 persons living in over 2,500 GQ facilities in the Commonwealth. This updated component data has been used to support numerous population challenges statewide as well as a direct input to the Bureau’s official estimates. GQ counts are alone responsible for increasing the official state population by over 50,000 since 2007. If the state does not collect and submit this data annually, the Census Bureau assumes no growth in the GQ population during the nine years following the Census count, making state-supported survey work critical to the maintenance of a full and correct count for Massachusetts.

Housing Unit Review Survey
Housing unit data constitute a critical update for the U.S. Census Bureau’s official annual population estimates. The Bureau’s housing unit estimates are used to distribute a county’s growth to its municipalities and are also used as a control for the American Community Survey and other Bureau estimates. Actual data on components like demolitions and adaptive re-use are not captured by the Census Bureau’s regular Monthly Building Permit Survey to cities and towns, but the FSCPE’s Housing Unit Review program provides an opportunity to supply these data and more accurately document residential growth in Massachusetts. Each year, PEP conducts a survey to all Massachusetts cities and towns requesting current data on building permits, mobile home placements, conversions, and housing unit loss. These survey results are submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau and are incorporated into their official annual estimates for each city and town.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Challenge Program offers an opportunity for cities and towns to challenge their official annual population estimates by submitting additional data to the Bureau for evaluation. PEP provides technical assistance to cities and towns who have a demonstrated basis for an estimates challenge and, in many cases, PEP will initiate a challenge on behalf of a city or town based on information we obtain through our own research activities.

For example, in 2009, PEP initiated successful challenges for 16 municipalities, increasing the state population by 21,294 that year. Again in 2010, PEP initiated challenges for another eight Massachusetts municipalities, increasing the state population by another 22,150 persons. Finally, following the 2010 Census, PEP continued to provide support and technical assistance to additional towns needing to make corrections to their official Census estimates on an as-needed basis.

It is our intention that by providing the Census Bureau with current input data on behalf of municipalities and by conducting our own review of Census estimates before they are released publicly, fewer municipalities will need to make corrections to their official population estimates. Our annual Housing Unit Review and Group Quarters surveys both ensure that cities and towns have a chance to include their data in the Census Bureau’s estimates process before the estimates are finalized so that challenges based on those components are not needed. However, we encourage cities and towns who find a basis for a correction or challenge to their official estimate to contact our program for assistance.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a complete “decennial” Census count every ten years. This operation produces the counts used in Congressional apportionment and also sets the “base” count by which annual estimates are calculated. As we approach Census 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau is providing increased opportunities for states and local governments to have an impact on the decennial count in their regions, and PEP is actively participating in a number of these opportunities in coordination with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. For more information about Census 2020 in Massachusetts, visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Census 2020 website here. More information about PEP’s activities surrounding the decennial census is described below. 

Group Quarters Electronic Response
The Group Quarters Electronic Response (GQER) test is a component of the 2020 Research and Testing Study Plan being conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Special Enumerations Integration Team. The GQER test will test the electronic submission of eResponse data of group quarters facilities and the integration of that data into a standardized decennial database; evaluate the ability of group quarters administrators to provide a single response data file for all facilities under their jurisdiction; test the process for the Census geography division to standardize group quarters address response data and match them to the Master Address File; and provide an opportunity for Census to review the matched address response data for accuracy.

PEP is participating in the GQER by submitting group quarter facility names, addresses, geographic coordinates, contact information, and capacity counts to the Special Enumerations Team. In FY 2017, PEP submitted information for nursing homes and dormitories, and in FY 2018 PEP will submit information on correctional facilities and shelters. By participating in the GQER we are ensuring that the processes needed to integrate facility lists supplied by states are developed in such a way that Massachusetts group quarters data can be incorporated into the 2020 address frame. Because our submission is specific to Massachusetts, potentially problematic cases, such as affiliated student housing and hotel-shelters, will be addressed well before the actual 2020 enumeration, and a protocol for integrating these data can be better established by the Bureau.

Geographic Support System Initiative, Frame Development
The Geographic Support System Initiative (GSS-I) includes the receipt and processing by the Census Bureau of various address records from sources such as the United States Postal Service, state and local governments, and third-party data sources. PEP began participating in the GSS-I in FY 2017 by submitting 2.8 million residential addresses in Massachusetts for integration into the U.S. Census Bureau’s Master Address File, using information made available through the MassGIS NextGen e-911 Master Address Database, the Level 3 Assessors’ Parcel Data, information from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, and other sources. By working to ensure that the Master Address File is as comprehensive and accurate as possible, PEP helps to ensure that the 2020 Census count in Massachusetts will be as inclusive as possible.

Local Update of Census Addresses 2020
The Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program provides an opportunity for tribal, state, and local governments to review and improve the address lists and maps used to conduct the 2020 Census. LUCA 2020 will allow participants to review the Census Bureau’s full address list for their geographic area. This is a full Title-13 address list review allowing participants to add, delete, change or correct an address, including the location of the address. In addition to address lists, the Bureau will also provide maps and geographic location data associated with addresses as well as address counts by census block. To support the state in LUCA participation, PEP is working closely with the Secretary of the Commonwealth in providing technical assistance to cities and towns. More details on the LUCA 2020 program may be found on the Census website.

Count Review Program
The Count Review Program (CRP) provides a last-chance opportunity for FSCPE state liaisons to review the Census Bureau’s Master Address File before the official Census count day (for housing units) and after enumeration (for group quarters) so that missed addresses and facilities can be restored to the address frame and be included in Census mail-out and canvassing operations. PEP participates in this project by assembling a statewide geodatabase of residential addresses and group quarters facilities for comparison against the Master Address File. For example, in the 2010 Count Review program, PEP was able to restore 2,735 residential addresses and numerous facilities to the enumeration which would have otherwise been missed.

Count Question Resolution
The Census Bureau established the Census Count Question Resolution (CQR) Program to allow state, local, and tribal area elected officials to challenge their jurisdiction's decennial Census counts. The CQR typically begins about one year after the census date, and runs for approximately two years. The data eligible for correction in the CQR program include housing units and group quarters population at the block level, as well as boundary corrections. If a challenge results in a change, the Census Bureau will issue official revised counts to the affected governments. These changes can be used by the governments for future programs that require official Census data, and are also used to calculate subsequent population estimates for that community. Once the CQR program concludes, there are no additional opportunities to add missed housing units or missed group quarters facilities to the decennial census base. PEP participated in the 2010 CQR and, pending future resources, will also participate in the 2020 review.

Contracting with Us

The UMass Donahue Institute is pre-approved to offer a variety of options for streamlined, simplified contracting both within Massachusetts and at the federal level.

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UMass Donahue Institute

University of Massachusetts

Office of the President

100 Venture Way, Suite 9

Hadley, Massachusetts 01035

(413) 545-0001

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