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Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census
that on the order of 300,000–375,000 Canadians join the snowbird migration. Foreign nationals receiving a census questionnaire at their seasonal home might be less inclined to return it, but that question does not appear to have been studied empirically. In addition, Coates et al. (2002) suggest an increased tendency for snowbirds (both U.S.- and Canada-based) to spend winter months in Mexico, making it impossible to contact them directly at the seasonal residence.
Both Happel and Hogan (2002) and Smith and House (2004a) argue for the need for the Census Bureau to be able to generate national estimates of the seasonal migrant population. Though improvements could be made to the decennial census to acquire such estimates, both sets of authors suggest that the American Community Survey (ACS, the replacement for the census long-form sample) is an ideal vehicle for generating these estimates on a regular basis. In particular, Smith and House (2004a) advocate asking specific questions on the ACS in order to differentiate short- and long-term visitors to an area: “Is the current address your usual place of residence?” If not, “Where is your usual place of residence?” And, “How many months will you be at the current address during your current visit?”
In this section, we have focused on one component of seasonal migration, specifically the movement of older, retired people for stays of several months. It is worth nothing that other significant short-term population movements affect younger age groups and even shorter “seasons.” One such case are groups of migrant farm workers, which we discuss in Section 4–A.6; another seasonal population of interest in major hosting cities like Las Vegas, Chicago, and Atlanta is the steady stream of short-term attendees of professional meetings and conferences. Still another major, regular such shift is the influx of college students on spring break that arrives at beach communities, such as South Padre Island, Texas, and Panama City, Florida, or other destinations. Because colleges vary in the exact date of their spring break or semester/quarter break, these communities may experience major population surges—and both the economic benefits and resource drains that accompany that growth—for much of March through April. Studies of the size and nature of the spring break population is limited, but the short-term effect on small areas can be large. Vincent et al. (2000) estimated that 186,000 college students came to the South Padre Island area alone in March 2000, spending on the order of $156 million and resulting in the creation of 4,276 jobs during the spring break season.
4–A.2 Modern Nomads: Recreational Vehicle Users
The “life course” framework for multiple residence suggested by McHugh et al. (1995) identifies snowbird and sunbird movement as a cyclical migration pattern prevalent among retirees and the elderly. Another pattern evident in