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.

In Ireland, people who don’t complete their census forms are actually prosecuted

In America, all residents are legally obliged to complete their census forms, but it has been many decades since the US government has actually enforced its rules and prosecuted citizens who have failed to complete their census forms. But in Ireland, this isn’t the case. The Irish Times reports:

SIX HOUSEHOLDERS are to be prosecuted for refusing to complete their census forms in last year’s survey.

The six cases have been forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, a spokeswoman for the Central Statistics Office told The Irish Times .

The CSO’s policy was to prosecute “as representative a sample of the population as possible” and it would be prosecuting six households “for the moment”, the spokeswoman said. They could face fines of up to €25,000 on conviction in the Circuit Court.

Some 20 households had “refused outright” to co-operate with the census but a “significant proportion” of these households subsequently completed their forms after further correspondence, the spokeswoman said.

Forms from some 1.7 million households were collected by enumerators after last April’s survey.




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5 Responses to “In Ireland, people who don’t complete their census forms are actually prosecuted”

  1. Joseph Dodge Says:

    If the American Census actually forced compliance and prosecuted real estate companies and managers. Then places like New York City would not have been so grossly undercounted. My favorite line comes from a property manager when I went door to door as an enumerator in 2010. “Just send me the fine; I’ll pay it but I won’t let you into the building!” One real estate manager said the building was vacant because all the occupants in his building have usual homes elsewhere.

    Americans complained about this in 2010 and say there will be reform but it goes on the backburner. That is real government for you. No real world applicable solutions just complaining.

  2. Jersey Census Says:

    20 Irish households out of 1.7 million refused? That works out to .0001%

    I worked in Bergen County, New Jersey (332,733 households). The mail-in compliance rate was about 75% which leaves 83,183 NARFUs . Of the non-respondents I interviewed, about 1/4 were refusals. If that rate holds for the entire county, 20,795 households were refusals or 6%.

    @Joseph Dodge, I agree, I had countless problems with the big landlords and property management companies. When I told one property manager that it was the law, she proceeded to laugh and and then pointed to the door. Another property manager said to me, “I’m not giving you any information because you’re getting paid to do this, not me. Now you can get out.” I was threatened by individual property owners, both directly and implied on a number of occasions. When the LCO was informed, their response was always the same, “Keep trying.”

    After seeing first hand how the census is conducted, I can only conclude that the politicians don’t want an accurate count so they can massage the numbers anyway it best suits their interests.

  3. Joseph Dodge Says:

    @Jersey Census
    I agree with you the percentage of refusals while seemingly only a few percentage points matter a lot to New York City which estimates they were undercounted by about 200,000 residents.

    I’m not surprised by this New York Times article which claims the Census overestimated the number of vacant housing units. We did not estimate we were told they were vacant because the property manager said they lived full time elsewhere.

    I saw people in my office during the end of NRFU finally give in to real estate managers. The property management company gave us a listing of their unit designations and just the population count. “I need someone to fill out 100 questionnaires with the population of one written on it, no name, relationship, age, date of birth, race, or Hispanic origin.” Or the property manager who said he would not let us speak to his tenants. He would tell us his entire building of three hundred units was vacant because they all had homes elsewhere. Meanwhile people are coming in and out of the lobby. Surely that could not have been accurate but the politicians who voiced participation so openly could not force anyone to comply. What a waste of $15 billion dollars.

    I know people value their privacy but the form seriously did just take ten minutes. (assuming of course you don’t have a housing unit with over 40 people, we in the office all had a laugh at that one, it passed quality check and then got shipped out)

  4. Jersey Census Says:

    @Joseph Dodge
    My experiences were similar to yours as regards large property management companies and landlords. A number of the large property management companies, some with hundreds of properties under management, refused to provide access or, as in your case, would only confirm if an apartment was occupied. They provided a population count…nothing more. I can understand why the Census Bureau would be less than enthusiastic about prosecuting individual homeowners who refused to comply with the Census, but it’s inexcusable when it comes to big landlords or property management companies. One property manager that I ran into seemed to get a perverse thrill out of harassing and insulting Census workers.

    I also ran into a number of people who claimed they lived elsewhere. One of these people provided an address in Florida which they claimed was their primary residence. This person also claimed that they had filled out a Census form at their Florida address. I looked up the property records for both the New Jersey and Florida properties. According to those records, the individual in question listed their New Jersey property as their primary residence. When I pointed this out to my CL, I was told to complete the form as per the information provided by the respondent.

    It’s my understanding that Census counts in Western European countries are done using modern information gathering techniques and people refusing to participate are routinely fined. I would imagine that their counts are much more accurate. Until the US decides it wants to be serious about the Census, the American Census will continue to be a very expensive farce.

  5. Bill Says:

    I refuse at any cost.