How Two Homes Breed Duplicate Counts

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

I am starting to see articles in Northern state newspapers urging “snowbirds” to complete their census forms at their Northern address. (“Snowbirds” is the term describing people who migrate South every year to live there in the winter months.) Over the past few censuses we’ve learned that there is a tendency to “double-count” certain types of people. A group frequently double-counted are those with two houses, one in a Northern state (often their first home) and one in a Southern state (often a potential retirement home).

Some of these households live in the Northern state when it’s pleasant weather there and spend the winters in their Southern home. If they’re still living in their Southern home in mid-March, when the Census form is mailed, they’ll receive one there. Meanwhile, another form will arrive at their Northern address.

What should they do? They should fill out the form sent to the location where they live the most. For example, if you live in Michigan between April and November (8 months), and then you go to Florida between December and March (4 months), you should fill out your form at your Michigan address when you arrive there in April. In that example, what should you do with the form sent to your Florida address? Just answer the first question (“How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?”) with the number “0”. Fill out the Michigan form, reporting its full household membership, because that’s where you live most of the time.

(OK. I know what you’re thinking. What if I live exactly six months in one location and, six months in another? Then you fill out the form sent to the home you live in on April 1, 2010.)

So, under the rules of the census, should snowbirds be counted in the Northern state? Remember the rule: Count where you live most of the time.

Please submit any questions pertaining to this post to ask.census.gov.

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26 Responses to How Two Homes Breed Duplicate Counts

  1. Bruce Fogarty says:

    If you have mail forwarded from (in this example) your Michigan address to your Florida address, you should not wait until you “arrive in April” to return your questionnaire. USPS will be forwarding the Census 2010 questionnaire (assuming you have asked USPS to forward mail). In the paragraph starting “What should they do?”, I think it would have clearer to say “They should fill out the form for both locations, provided they are the primary resident in the Florida location.” As written, it never says you should return the form for the Florida location, although it’s implied. Of course if the Florida location is the primary resident of someone else (i.e., the other 8 months), that person should fill out the form for that residence.

  2. Rhonda M Hill says:

    Very informative. A good fact to know.

  3. J E White says:

    What do I do if census forms are mailed to a vacation home occupied on a temporary basis by Canadian Citizens?

  4. kev@censusstaff says:

    J E White,
    Citizens of foreign countries living in the United States are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. Foreign citizens visiting the United States on a vacation or business trip are not counted in the census.

  5. justine says:

    what if i am on vacation and cannot fill out any of the forms ?

  6. kev@censusstaff says:

    Justine,
    Census forms will be mailed to the public in mid- to late-March and will not be forwarded by the postal service. Please fill out and return the census form that will be waiting for you when you return to your residence.

  7. Ann says:

    I have received an answer from AskCensus indicating that Census forms WILL be forwarded, despite what kev said. Wonder who is right?????

  8. Ann,
    The mail forwarding rules are:
    If a customer has purchased the Premium Forwarding Services (PFS) provided by the USPS that forwards “ALL” mail , the USPS WILL forward the Census mail to the requested address. “ALL” mail includes junk mail or any mail that is addressed to “Household”, “Resident”, “Current Resident”,
    and so forth. This one of the benefits of this service because it include “ALL” mail.
    If a customer has a “Temporary Forward Order” on file at the USPS (not PFS), with a temporary change of address, the USPS WILL NOT forward the Census mail. This also includes snowbirds with a temporary change of address on file. Because the Census mail piece does not have a customer name,
    the USPS will be unable to forward the mail piece and it will be returned as a “Unable to Forward, Undeliverable as Addressed”. Any mail pieces addressed to “Household”, “Resident”, “Current Resident”, and so forth such as junk mail, advertisements, etc. are not forwarded under a Temporary Forward Order.
    If a customer in signed up in the WebEES which is an electronic system that links street addresses to a P.O. Box address, the USPS WILL forward the Census mail to the P.O. Box address. The USPS stated that this is a very rare occurrence and happens most often with customers who have home-based businesses that want their business mail to be redirected to their P.O. Box address.

  9. Ed says:

    The example works fine if you are back at your permanent address on April 1st, but I will not return until May and I will not be receiving my Census Form because I have a “Temporary Change of Address” form w/ USPS. I have received a Form at my seasonal home, but shouldn’t be counted here as I only spend 5 months here & 7 month “up-north”, where I maintain my legal residence. The format of the Form doesn’t account for such situations and the USPS SHOULD be forwarding these forms. Are they not still part of the U.S. Government? There must me millions of households w/ this situation & Census Bureau should have been prepared to address this issue

  10. Ed,
    You can fill out at be counted form at one of our be counted locations. For more information call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868.

  11. Jan says:

    Since The census form was not able to be forwarded from our Minnesota residence, what has happened with that form? Have been told by the post office that non forwarding mail is destroyed. (Our mail will be held in MN on April 1.) When we arrive home in mid April, where do we get this form? I do not have the time or cell phone minutes to go through the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center.

  12. Tony Linn says:

    What do we do if we live full time in our motorhome? We have a mail forwarding address but no permanent address. We move from RV park to RV park. We’ve spent several weeks in 5 states last year and 2 states this year.

  13. Chris says:

    kev@censusstaff & Bri@censusstaff
    I am our community’s Complete Count Committee Coordinator, and I’m in Florida so we have a large seasonal population. A frequent question I receive is whether or not the Census form will be forwarded. I’ve answered the question, but I know many people will look at your website for the answer. However, the Director’s Blog Entry does not directly address the forwarding question. The initial comment from Bruce Fogarty attempts to answer the question, but it is incomplete as Kev and Bri’s later comments explain. But many people may “stop reading” after Mr. Fogarty’s comment, and not realize their Census form will not be forwarded due to the type of “forwarding order” they have set up with the USPS.
    It would be FANTASTIC if this Director’s Blog Entry could be UPDATED & EXPANDED to directly include the comment responses regarding when/how Census forms are forwarded, or when to get a additional form. The responses from kev@censusstaff’s (replies to Justine on January 28, 2010 at 10:41 AM and Ann on March 03, 2010 at 11:27 AM) and Bri@censussstaff’s (reply to Ed on March 19, 2010 at 02:01 PM) are of particular interest, and they do become “lost” in the list. Updating the blog to include the details of Kev & Bri’s comments will serve to directly answer the question and provide an immediate answer so the public does not have to “hunt through all of the listed comments” to get a complete answer.
    Sincerely,
    Chris

  14. Chris, Snowbirds (people who live in one state but spend the winter in
    another state with a warmer climate) are counted at the residence
    where they live most of the year. Respondents who indicated they spend equal amounts of time at each location are counted at the residence where they are living at the time of the census.

  15. James Fox says:

    I am a snowbird. Census.gov clearly states that I should be counted where I live most of the year, (8 mo.). My mail is temporarily forwarded, and my Post Office said they will not forward mail addressed only to “resident”. A northern neighbor told me a census interviewer was making house-to-house calls – no mailings – and only people would be counted that reside there on April 1st.
    I regret sending in my form from my seasonal residence. Can it be recalled and cancelled as my mistake?
    How can I be counted where I am a permanent resident, vote, pay taxes as a resident, register my car, etc.?

  16. Jim S says:

    You must be kidding with that Majority of the Year answer. That may apply for State Tax purposes, but the census question is very clear, “How many people were living or staying in this house … on April 1 2010?” — that certainly sounds open to no other interpretation than what it plainly says.

  17. Jim S.
    The form also states to be counted where you live most of the year.

  18. bob says:

    You guys can’t forward my census mail to me, with all of the other mail I have forwarded? Isn’t the USPS part of the gov’t? And our gov’t thinks they’re going to effectively and efficiently run our health care system. Heaven help us! However, I did get two forms at my seasonal residence, so I guess that makes up for the one they wouldn’t/couldn’t forward. :)

  19. Lenore Fries says:

    I bought a mobile home in an over 55 RV park in Apache Junction AZ on Apr. 1, 2010. In my mail were 2 census forms–I sent 1 back saying no one was at that address on Apr. 1, as I had already sent back my census form in Minnesota. I’ve spent about 2 weeks in Arizona since Jan. 1, 2010. The population of Apache Junction doubles in the winter with snowbirds–from 38,000 in the summer to 78,000 in the winter. I talked with about 100 older adults about the census while I was there. They all told me they got at least 2 census forms–some got several more than that (this is a waste of tax dollars). In our park about 30% of the residents live there year around; 10-15% are Canadian residents, and the rest come from other northern states. ON Apr. 1, residents of our park were instructed to complete the form and send it in indicating that they were in Arizona on Apr. 1, and many did that. I have a copy of a newspaper article that says the same thing. Then someone said that a few days later the TV station said you didn’t have to return the form if you didn’t live in Arizona year round–but by then many had already done it. When I talked to year round residents (chamber of commerce, manager, people working in restaurants, etc.) they said that since older people live there up to 6 months Arizona needs the tax dollars to provide roads and recreation and services to take care of us. Many of the people there on Apr. 1 had not been there 6 months or were Canadian citizens. I recently talked to a friend who spends time in Mission, Texas in the winter, and she said the same thing happened there. I think this is fraudulent, and only year round residents should be counted in these southern states.

  20. Daniel Nasman says:

    I note that the last post is April 8 so I hope this site is still actively monitored.
    I’m in the field as an enumerator and find that the questionnaire doesn’t fit snowbirds who recently returned to their “regular” residence. If I ask “Did anyone live at this address on April 1?” the answer is “no”. Then I ask “Was this address vacant on Apri 1?” and they say “yes” . I’m then instructed to go to the last page and show it as vacant and collect no information about the people who live there most of the year and who should be counted there according to your guidelines. I believe that I should change the answer to “vacant” on April 1 to “no” so that I can go ahead an count them. (Most snowbirds didn’t get a census form at their winter address because they use PO boxes.)
    2) When I find a vacant residence that has no immediate neighbors (I had 14 seasonal cabins in a row on one block) I have gone to the county assessor’s page to get the name of the owner then to Switchboard to look up a phone number for the owner and placed a call confirming whether or not the vacant place is a seasonal place or a regular place from which they are seasonally absent. I have now been instructed by the area NRFU office that we are not permitted to use the internet to search for such information including phone numbers. Can that possibly be true? Such searchs are more accurate and certainly time effective.

  21. Crew Leader Assistant says:

    Daniel:
    I’m a CLA for the census, and we have been encouraged by our local office to use the Internet and other resources to find contact information, but then to make personal contact with a resident or proxy to actually conduct the interview.
    However, our instructions have changed several times in the past couple of weeks regarding how many personal contact visits to make and other factors, so you may want to ask your CL for clarification again at your daily meeting.

  22. Tom & Diane Schmitz says:

    We still have not been contacted in regard to the census.

  23. Tom & Diane Schmitz says:

    We still have not been contacted in regard to the census.

  24. Tom & Diane Schmitz says:

    We still have not been contacted in regard to the census.

  25. R says:

    If during VDC a snowbird is discovered to have returned after April 1st and states the that the address is their primary address (where they live most of the time) and was previously labled “VACANT”, because they weren’t physically there on Census Day. Do you now complete an interview and claim it as occupied by the respondent.

  26. Annabeth Karson says:

    I am the CCC chair for a city in south Florida where a large percentage of residents are snowbirds. The Census Bureau’s snowbird policy places a severe burden on the State of Florida. State, county and municipal governments are obligated to provide services for snowbirds whether or not they will recieve federal funding for those services. Floridians are funding the infrastructure needs of millions of residents who are not counted in the census. This creates an economic hardship for the whole state, and specifally for the coastal communities that provide services for large numbers of snowbirds every year.
    If the census is to serve its purpose it should not penalize our communities for having a large snowbird population. The Census Bureau should review its policy regarding snowbirds as pertains to those states such as Florida which have massive snowbird populations.

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