Census misses addresses in Hawthorne


UPDATED March 24, 2010

Chances are, you’ve probably received your census survey already.  That is, unless you happen to live in a location whose address wasn’t identified by the Census Bureau.  Minneapolis has as many as 1,300 addresses that the city believes should have received surveys but didn’t. Some of those missing addresses are from the Hawthorne neighborhood in North Minneapolis, where possibly two whole blocks were not considered legitimate residences by the Census Bureau.

Margaret Kaplan, of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota and also a member of Minneapolis’s Complete Count Committee, a city program aimed at increasing turnout for the census, said that many of the missing addresses came from the Hawthorne Neighborhood in North Minneapolis.

Kaplan said in some cases, there might be commercial spaces on the lower floor of a building, with a residence above that.  Such residences may have been overlooked when the census surveyed the neighborhood. Another problem is homes that are foreclosed.

Jeff Skrenes, the Housing Director for the Hawthorne Neighborhood Community Council, said it wouldn’t surprise him if there were two whole blocks of houses in Hawthorne where nobody was living, but he said he hasn’t been actively involved with any major census outreach efforts so far.

In past decades, city governments were not involved in the census process, but that has changed this time around because of a program called Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA).  LUCA increases the extent to which municipalities are involved with the census process.  Minneapolis first began participating in LUCA in 2008.  “We’re happy that the census bureau is offering local government this opportunity,”  Jeffrey Schneider, Manager of Special Projects and Research for Minneapolis,  said.

When it comes to counting every single city resident, Minneapolis has a lot at stake.  Josh Goodman from Governing Magazine writes that the federal government doles out more than $400 billion per year based on population.  

Jim Adams from the Star Tribune writes that the city stands to lose $1 million in federal programs and grants over the next decade for every 100 residents not counted.  In addition, Minnesota might lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if the census numbers fall short.  

In 2000, the city’s response rate was 67%, equal to the national average, but lower than the state-wide average of 75%, according to a census preview by the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development. [CLARIFICATION (3/24/2010): Jeffrey Schneider clarified in an email that although the city’s response rate was 67%, that only responds to the mail back response rate, not the tally of all responses after the several months of door knocking by Census workers.]

In 2008, when Minneapolis began participating in LUCA, the city received an address file from the census which the city initially determined to be 2600 addresses short, according to Schneider, who said the majority of the missing addresses were very recently added housing units.  Because Minneapolis is growing every, year city officials were not surprised that there would be some missing addresses.

Last year in the spring, the Census Bureau sent people out walking the streets to verify addresses across the country.  “They walked our city and most addresses across the country,” Schneider said.  Following that address verification process, a second address file was sent to the city.  “What we understood from that is that they accepted about 2100 of our 2600 addresses,” he said, but that number didn’t include another 1300 addresses. 

In addition, the bureau said there were an additional 8,000 addresses that they were deleting for other reasons.  From the new census address file, the city submitted  in December 2009 a list of 1,346 addresses which they believed to be valid residential addresses as part of the LUCA “round two” process. “We’re not so sure they are inaccurate.  We think they were miscoded to the wrong census block.”

“They may have inaccurately deleted up to 1300 addresses in the city,” said Schneider.  “We are still going through that list ourselves.”  Schneider hopes that some number of those missing addresses will at least receive a late mailing.  

According to an email by Barbara Ronningen of the State Demographer’s office, the Census Bureau has inserted a series of “late mailings” consisting of LUCA appeals and other updated addressesm extending from March 23 through April 20.

Schneider said that if some number of the city’s LUCA appealed addresses could be included in the late mailing, “that would be great.”  After all, he said, it’s much cheaper to send a questionnaire than to send a census worker to people’s homes.  “Even if a lot of these are a bad address-  probably would be money ahead in terms of their staff resources.”

Barbara Ronningen didn’t have a comment about the Hawthorne neighborhood statistics.  “That’s classified information,” she said.  

People living at legitimate addresses who did not receive a survey may still receive a survey in the second round of mailings, or else may be contacted later this spring when the non-response teams hit the neighborhoods on foot.