Counting snowbirds accurately is important to cities such as Wayzata, and the state as a whole.

WAYZATA — Wayzata is curious where its older residents most often rest their heads.

The snowbirds of Minnesota will have circled south for most of the critical months to the census 2020 count, and the potential to miss their numbers may impact cities such as Wayzata, and the state as a whole.

Across the region, many retired folks who can afford a Southern dwelling escape Minnesota’s winters. They return north come April, or later, thereby missing any physical indicators of the census count in their hometown. Some snowbirds don’t just split their living between two residences. They may have as many as three homes, or more.

The official definition of where snowbirds should count is simply wherever they live and sleep most of the time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 residence criteria.

Wayzata stands the chance to gain state aid for its streets, said Wayzata City Manager Jeffrey Dahl. If the city hits 5,000 residents — and estimates show they’re within a couple hundred of that count — Wayzata would have access to state aid for streets between $100,000 and $200,000.

Dahl guesses around 5% of Wayzata residents are snowbirds. However, the city is working to draw up a closer estimate by looking at utilities. The bills show which residents shut off their utilities during winter.

“We have a higher count of snowbirds than almost any other community around,” Dahl said, “given the household income, as well as the demographics with the age of our residents.”

Time is short to spread the word. It is over eight months until Census Day, April 1, but snowbirds will be ducking out by early winter.

City staff met Friday, July 12, to discuss whether to recommend the City Council form a Complete Count Committee. The committee would help get the word out about the census.

At Wayzata’s June 11 City Council meeting, a representative from the Census Bureau presented on the community partnership and engagement program for the Chicago region. Minnesota is one of eight states in the region.

The representative, Jim Purcell, described the challenges associated with the 2020 count. He said residents have to be contacted about seven times to fill out the form.

“You would have to reach them before they leave and let them know to watch for the census mailer,” he told the council. “Their mail is not going to be forwarded to them. But they need to know and have an awareness for when the census is about to start.”

In 2010, Wayzata’s mail participation rate was 83%, he said. It was 86% in 2000. The census form can also be completed online or over the phone.


Counting snowbirds accurately is important to Minnesota. The state stands the chance of losing a congressional seat this census, according to the Election Data Services. The projection of losing a seat groups Minnesota with other Midwest and Northeast states, such as Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Getting an accurate count of snowbirds has also been a focus of the Census Bureau for the last 20 years.

After the 2000 census, Census Bureau analyses suggested the U.S. population may have been overcounted for the first time, according to the Pew Research Center. Duplication arose from people being counted twice with their two homes.

The bureau made effort in its publicity for the 2010 census to avoid a repeat of the error. It also added a “screening question” to the 2010 form, asking whether each person in the household may sometimes live, or stay, someplace else.

Lara is a regional reporter for Southwest News Media.


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