This position Here
POSITION PAPER INDEX
2003 Position Papers
2002 Position Papers
2001 Position Papers
2000 Position Papers
1999 Position Papers
1998 Position Papers
Census 2000: Americans Abroad Count, Too!
U.S. Government employees residing overseas are included in the U.S.
Census, but the vast majority of Americans living and working abroad -
estimated to be at least three million U.S. citizens - are not. Just be
cause they are currently living overseas does not mean that these
hard-working, patriotic U.S. citizens should be targeted for exclusion and
treated as "invisible" by the U.S. Government. Americans abroad are highly
visible "ambassadors" of the United States - economically, politically, and
culturally - and these U.S. citizens play a key role in advancing America's
interests around the world.
It makes good sense to include Americans resident abroad in Census 2000 for
at least four reasons:
Competitiveness - In today's global economy, Americans abroad play a vital
role in promoting U.S. competitiveness overseas and in generating jobs in
the United States. In order for America's public and private sector
leaders to give appropriate support to U.S. citizens and U.S. companies
overseas, it is important to get a better handle on how many Americans live
abroad and where they live. By way of analogy: If a team captain does not
know how many players are at his disposal, how can he possibly field much
of a team, let alone compete successfully?
Representation - Through the Census, the U.S. Government counts Americans
every ten years, and there is no reasonable basis for excluding millions of
Americans just because they are living overseas. Like Americans who reside
within the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, U.S. citizens
abroad vote, pay U.S. taxes, and generally stay in touch with their home
communities in the USA.
Fairness - U.S. Government employees working overseas are included in the
U.S. Census. It is wrong for the U.S. Government to "take care of its own"
and to discriminate against those Americans who do not work for the
government. All Americans - regardless of their employment status or where
they live - deserve the right to be counted.
Accuracy - The Census Bureau says that it wants Census 2000 to be the "most
accurate census ever." But the Bureau cannot willingly and knowingly
exclude millions of Americans living overseas and still claim with any
credibility that its work is accurate. If the Census Bureau is committed
to accurate data for reasons of apportionment and for other purposes, then
it must include private Americans abroad.
Members of the Census 2000 Coalition, composed of all the main
organizations representing U.S. citizens and U.S. companies overseas, have
offered to do the lion's share of the work involved in "getting the word
out" about the Census to private U.S. citizens residing overseas. Through
the use of a simple Overseas Citizen Census Card (OCCC), taking stock of
Americans abroad would be efficient and cost-effective. Distribution and
collection of the OCCCs would be modeled after the Federal Post Card
Application (FPCA), which Americans overseas have used successfully for
more than two decades to vote by absentee ballot.
Despite the Census Bureau's stonewalling and its efforts to smother
discussion of this issue with red herrings, an increasing number of
policymakers - on a bipartisan basis - are realizing that Americans abroad
need to be included in Census 2000. Updating the U.S. Census in this way
is long overdue, and it represents an important step forward for American
citizens and U.S. interests worldwide.
Resource materials to be used for BACKGROUND purposes:
Myths and Facts:Including Americans Abroad in Census 2000
Americans living and working overseas are an increasingly important segment
of the U.S. population. This is a reflection of America's growing
globalization and the essential role that U.S. exports of goods, services,
and expertise now play in strengthening our economy. There are at least
three million Americans living overseas, and this number appears to be
growing at an unprecedented rate. As highly visible "ambassadors" of the
United States - economically, politically, and culturally - U.S. citizens
overseas play a key role in advancing America's interests around the world.
Despite this fact, the U.S. Bureau of the Census refuses to include any
provision for counting Americans abroad in Census 2000. The Bureau states
that it wants Census 2000 to be the "most accurate census ever." But can
the Bureau knowingly and willingly exclude millions of Americans - who
happen to live and work overseas - and still claim that Census 2000 is
To make things right, U.S. citizens groups around the world have
volunteered to do the lion's share of the work in "spreading the word"
about Census 2000 to Americans abroad. These groups have prepared
proposals that would enable the Bureau to collect data on Americans
overseas in a systematic, cost-effective way. Regrettably, the Census
Bureau has been unwilling to study these proposals in a serious way,
raising questions about the Bureau's own capabilities, its lack of
preparedness for the new millennium, and its inability to deal with an
American population that is more global today than at any time in our
Despite the Census Bureau's stonewalling, an increasing number of
policymakers - on a bipartisan basis - are realizing that Americans living
and working abroad need to be counted. Through the census, the U.S.
Government takes stock of Americans every ten years, and there is no basis
for excluding millions of Americans overseas who are promoting U.S.
interests on a day-in and day-out basis. Just because they are currently
living abroad does not mean that these hard-working, tax-paying U.S.
citizens should be treated as "invisible" by the U.S. Government.
The Census Bureau has put forward a number of arguments about why it is not
in a position to include Americans abroad in Census 2000. Upon close
inspection, however, it is clear that these arguments just don't hold
water. In an effort to set the record straight, Americans around the globe
have prepared this list of "Myths and Facts." What's the bottom line?
Americans living and working abroad belong in Census 2000, and where
there's a will, there's a way.
Myth #1: It is too difficult to track down Americans overseas.
Fact #1: Many Americans living and working overseas are already
with U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Americans abroad are also accessible
through U.S. citizens groups around the world, American Chambers of
Commerce (AmChams) abroad, U.S.-based companies with overseas operations,
American schools abroad, American communities overseas, and U.S.-based
families of Americans living and working outside the country.
Myth #2: It is too expensive to include Americans overseas in Census
Fact #2: Including Americans who are currently living overseas need not
an expensive process. There are three basic methods by which Americans
abroad could provide census data: 1) supplying the information directly to
the Census Bureau via the Internet; 2) supplying it to the Bureau through
U.S. Embassies and Consulates; 3) mailing it directly to the Census Bureau.
At a reasonable cost, a secure web site could be established that would
enable U.S. citizens overseas to supply data to the Census Bureau. To
avoid fraud, applicants would be required to supply their Social Security
numbers or passport numbers. It should be possible to have this site up
and running in time for Census 2000 but, if a longer period of testing is
desired, the site could be used selectively, on a pilot basis, for the
upcoming census. (If successful, this site could one day be used for
Americans residing in the United States as well.)
It should also be simple and cost-effective to design an Overseas Citizen
Census Card (OCCC) that would be available through U.S. Embassies and
Consulates around the world. One member of the embassy staff would serve
as the contact person for these cards, which would be distributed directly
by embassies and consulates and indirectly by American citizens groups
abroad and other channels (identified above). Distribution and collection
of the OCCCs would be modeled after the Federal Post Card Application
(FPCA), which Americans overseas have used for more than 20 years to vote
by absentee ballot. The completed OCCCs could be returned directly to the
Census Bureau by mail, indirectly through embassies and consulates via
diplomatic pouch, or indirectly through American citizens groups
(presumably in cooperation with a global courier company).
Myth #3: Americans abroad should only be included if there is 100%
Fact #3: Never in the history of the United States have all Americans
counted in the U.S. Census. Nor would anyone expect the Census Bureau to
track down every last American living and working abroad. But just because
all Americans overseas can't be accounted for doesn't mean that we
shouldn't be counting any U.S. citizens abroad. There is widespread
agreement that, with an early enough start, very large numbers of Americans
abroad would participate in Census 2000. They want to be actively involved
in this census, and the Bureau's wrongheaded desire to have "all or nothing
at all" should not stand in the way.
Myth #4: The last time that Americans abroad were included in the U.S.
Census - in 1970 - there were severe limitations when it came to voluntary
Fact #4: Drawing such comparisons is like juxtaposing a 1970 computer
that of today: there is simply no comparison. In 1970, at the height of
the Vietnam War, it was hard to get a fix on Americans abroad for a variety
of reasons. Today, the vast majority of Americans overseas can access the
Internet and are accessible by fax and/or e-mail.
The Census Bureau itself must take responsibility for a large portion of
what it calls the "data quality problems" associated with the 1970 census.
The Bureau generated a long and perplexing bureaucratic form, and it
supplied inadequate instructions for Americans abroad. Many were confused,
for example, about what should be considered a "Home State." Is it the
most recent State of residence? Is it the last State in which one paid
taxes? Is it the most recent State in which one voted? Is it the last
State in which one owned property?
With adequate instructions from the Census Bureau, there should be no
confusion this time around. Congress decided in the 1970s that for voting
purposes, the "Home State" of an American abroad is that State in which the
U.S. citizen last resided in the United States. It makes sense to use this
same definition for purposes of the U.S. Census and apportionment.
Myth #5: Census 2000 data from overseas would distort apportionment for
Fact #5: Americans abroad pay taxes in the United States and vote in
State and Congressional district in which they last resided, so why
shouldn't they be considered in the apportionment process? Apportionment
is currently being distorted because Americans abroad are not being
included in the census. When it comes to apportionment, U.S. citizens
living overseas should be treated in the same way as U.S. citizens living
in the USA.
Myth #6: Confidentiality may be compromised overseas, and there would
way to guard against fraud.
Fact #6: Working through U.S. Embassies and Consulates, confidentiality
could be assured. All completed Overseas Citizen Census Cards (OCCCs), for
example, would be returned to the U.S. Government in sealed envelopes.
Likewise, information posted via the Internet would be encrypted and
The likelihood of widespread fraud is remote, just as it is when census
data are collected in the United States. The Census Bureau builds in
safeguards against fraud, and these same safeguards would be used overseas.
In addition, the OCCCs could require a respondent to include his Social
Security number or his passport number - a feature that is not included in
the standard short-form questionnaire.
Myth #7: Any verification procedure would be very time consuming and
Fact #7: Verification need not be time consuming or expensive. The
would require respondents to provide an overseas address and coordinates so
that the Census Bureau, if it needs to, could verify information supplied
on the OCCC. Verification might be most effectively conducted through U.S.
Embassies and Consulates.
With today's technology, verification is easier than it has ever been. The
availability of faxes and e-mail addresses means that data could be
exchanged quickly and at relatively low cost. In the case of e-mail
correspondence, it is both faster and cheaper than sending materials
through the U.S. Postal Service.
Myth #8: The Census Bureau has neither the budget nor the time to
system to include Americans abroad in Census 2000.
Fact #8: It will not cost a mint to incorporate Americans living and
working overseas, and there is no need to "reinvent the wheel." The key is
to build on past experience - to avoid previous mistakes and to take
advantage of what was done properly in the past. With the help of
dedicated American volunteer organizations to assist U.S. Embassies and
Consulates in the distribution and collection of OCCCs, there would be no
significant additional costs - just marginal costs associated with shipping
the OCCCs to and from the United States to our diplomatic posts overseas.
To lighten the logistical load on the Census Bureau, it is highly
recommended that a Census 2000 working group be established to share
information and to refine the proposals advanced by American citizens
groups overseas. The working group, it is assumed, would be composed of
representatives from the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of State,
relevant Congressional committees, and U.S. citizens groups overseas.
Go to Top
This site is sponsored by
If you would like further information about the APCAC and its activities please contact the Membership Manager
If you would like details of advertising opportunities on this site, please email the Communications Director.
For other queries and comments regarding this site, contact the Webmaster.
APCAC Online User's Agreement
Use of this site is subject to these conditions of use.