My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

How to count “seasonal” guests…

For once, when we’re talking about “seasonal” guests, we’re not referring to undocumented immigrants. At the other end of the spectrum, today we’re descussing the elite an the hyper-elite. An article from today’s Martha’s Vineyard Gazette explains how the 2010 Census results may affect this playground for the rich and famous, many of whom spend time at their second/third/fourth/fifth homes on the island:

As a team of surveyors prepares to prep the Vineyard for the 2010 U.S. census, the dismal economy is adding bite to questions about accurately counting the transient Island population — since census numbers translate into government spending numbers.

The census provides a population snapshot of one day in April. It’s also a federal spending tool which the census bureau says accounts for some $300 billion in federal spending. Using census numbers, the government allocates spending for schools, roads, bridges, hospitals and other essential services.

Yet the bureau has acknowledged that several million ethnic minorities went uncounted in the 2000 census. Another potential for inaccuracy pertains to resort communities: the bureau announced an overcount of 1.3 million people, due primarily to duplicate counts of whites with second homes.

Then there is the overarching problem that an April survey cannot factor in the huge population bump the Island experiences each summer.

“We’re getting money as if we’re 15,000 but in summer we’re 75,000,” Martha’s Vineyard Commission affordable housing and economic development planner Christine Flynn told the Gazette last year.

Ten Vineyard census employees will spend April updating address lists and performing a count of Island dwellings. Using this information, surveys will be sent out to be completed on April 1, 2010.

Mark Forrest, chief of staff for congressman William D. Delahunt, said yesterday that the seasonal population shift is at the root of a never-ending funding battle.

“We have a tax burden for the infrastructure which falls disproportionately on a smaller, less affluent year-round population. We have the burden of supporting a large, fluctuating population,” he said, “and we’re constantly fighting the perception that the Cape and Islands is the land of the rich.”

Mr. Forrest predicts the predicament will be reflected in the apportioning of the recent federal stimulus package.

“I think we’re geared up for getting more than we’ll end up getting,” he said. “We often feel unfairly singled out to get hit at the schools level and for clean water needs and roads and bridges. There’s a perception [among Cape and Islanders] that we’re not getting our fair share, and that’s a perception [the congressman] shares.”

There is $250 million in federal stimulus money marked for census outreach, to help make more accurate counts of displaced residents and illegal immigrants. Mr. Forrest said it was unlikely that any of this funding will be directed at the Vineyard.