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How Two Homes Breed Duplicate Counts

Tue Jan 19 2010
Robert Groves
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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).

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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.

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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.

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(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.)

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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.

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


Director Robert Groves

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