Foreclosures And Vacant Housing Units Affect The Census

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

As too many Americans are well aware, the nation’s current economic climate has resulted in thousands of home foreclosures, leaving many housing units vacant.

So how does this impact the census?

For one, we still have to count the people who vacated these housing units. Many have moved in with relatives or friends. As I’ve talked about before on the blog, these families should be included on the census form where they are temporarily living, if they don’t have another usual residence. To help emphasize that message, we’re doing special advertising outreach in about 32 print and radio markets significantly affected by the foreclosure crisis.

Secondly, we still send a form to the housing unit, even though it is vacant now. Generally speaking, the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver mail to vacant housing units. They return these forms back to us as undeliverable. To be sure these housing units are vacant, we will send census workers to follow-up on these addresses beginning in May. This inevitably adds to the salary costs of the census. Thus, unfortunately, another cost of the foreclosure crisis is that we will spend more money verifying that the vacant homes are indeed vacant. Given our mandate to count everyone in the country, we are obliged to do this.

In the meantime, we’re able to get real-time information from the Post Office on which forms are on their way back to us as undeliverable. Incidentally, subtracting these undeliverable addresses is an important part of calculating the current participation rates across the country.

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9 Responses to Foreclosures And Vacant Housing Units Affect The Census

  1. William Hewitt says:

    I have not received ANY forms, but I got a postcard telling me that I am breaking the law if I dont fill out a form… I called the phone number to request a form and got a recording that asked that, before I could talk with a human, I needed to have the number of the form I didnt receive….. I believe either the form was lost or stolen from my mail (since I received a card indicating that I “should have already received my form)
    I dont have any problems with filling out the form and I do not want to get in trouble, but I cannot fill out a form if you do not send me one…..
    You have no information on your site as to how to actually order a form and the phone numbers listed are for recorded messages that do not allow my talking with a real person…
    I am very frustrated with this whole process and the amount of time it is taking from my work….. Very inefficient…..

  2. William Hewitt,
    The Census Bureau will be sending out replacement questionnaires. If you have not received a replacement questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the call center. 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message.

  3. Ann says:

    You might ask the Post Office for their tracking information. Often, the Post Office is able to track people’s movements – from, say, a foreclosed house to a relative’s house or to a post office box – by noted changes in addresses.

  4. Bernice Cummings says:

    I didn’t receive a form. I have checked with local libraries, senior centers and no one has a form. What should I do

  5. Beverly Summerlin says:

    We have already filled out one of the forms and sent it back in and now you say I have to fill out another one because you haven’t received the first one, so I guess when the next one goes in then we will be counted twice. I don’t feel that I should have to fill out two and waste the money that the state doesn’t have and they have to take away from us stateworkers to get the economy back on their feet. It isn’t my problem that your postal services loose our form or can’t do their job to get it where it needs to go.

  6. Phra and Linda Kercheval says:


  7. Suz says:
    The above link will allow you to enter a zipcode and find a location of where you can pickup a form if you did not receive one in the mail. Census folks should know this information… what I love are the second forms arriving at homes when they have already been counted once. Maybe Director Robert Groves needs to take a serious look at what is going around the country.

  8. Suz, Ideally, we would only send these second forms to those addresses that haven’t yet returned their first census form by mail. One of the most consistent findings in survey research is that mailing a second questionnaire to nonresponding cases leads to higher response rates. The mailing of a second questionnaire is a polite way to remind people that they have not yet returned the original form. Fairly quick responses generally result.
    If a residence received a second one, even though the fist form has already been returned, means that area that had a relatively low response rate in Census 2000. We sent a second form to housing units in the area in hopes of changing that this census. Households should only complete and return one form, and they may use either the first or the second form that they have received to participate in the census. The extra form should be discarded in a manner comfortable for the resident. If for some reason two forms are returned for a housing unit, the Census Bureau has a process for unduplicating them.

  9. Phra and Linda Kercheval, The Census Bureau is still in the process of sending out Census 2010 questionnaires. If you have not received a questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message. If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you.
    Also you can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc. Be Counted forms are available for anyone who did not receive a 2010 Census form or believes that they were missed on their household’s form.

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