GN 00302.720 Evaluation of Census Records - General
In some situations, census records established early in the claimant's life are considered to be very good evidence of age. If no material discrepancy exists, certain early census records have been statistically shown to be very reliable (see GN 00302.115). Also, if no other records established early in life are obtainable in a material discrepancy case (se GN 00302.160), the census record will often be the best evidence available. However, under other circumstances, the DB shown on a census record may be very questionable and should not be relied upon without careful evaluation of the other documents submitted; even if it is the oldest document, the census record may not necessarily be the best evidence.
The general principle that “oldest is best” is only one consideration in evaluating documents (see GN 00302.165). In material discrepancy situations (where the discrepancy cannot be ignored per GN 00302.180), census records have been shown to have similar inaccuracy rates to many other documents, including:
early work records
Thus, it is not appropriate to always request a census record and base the DB determination on it.
Based on the interview with the claimant concerning what evidence may be available (see GN 00302.170F.), decide whether other records of equal or greater probative are more readily available and/or less costly to obtain. Given the substantial delay that may be involved in obtaining a census record, you may wish to forgo obtaining it and instead pursue other records.
However, if the census record appears to be the best evidence obtainable, or it would influence the DB determination in some manner, request it.
C. Example 1
In a material discrepancy case, the claimant submits a 1953 insurance policy as the evidence of highest probative value. The claimant, allegedly born in 1921, states that no public or religious record of birth exists and that he knows of no other early records that may be obtainable. Since the probative value of a 1930 (or 1940) census record if located, would be greater than the evidence now in file, the DO will request the census record, which would generally be considered best evidence.
D. Example 2
A claimant alleges a DB of 2/2/21. The following evidence is in file.
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No other evidence (other than census records) is available.
The claimant explains that an employer completed his SS-5 and apparently erred in recording the DB. In this situation, it is not necessary to obtain the 1930 or 1940 census record. The other evidence in file has probative value equal to or greater than the census records, and given the consistency of the other documents, a census record would not affect SSA's use of 2/2/21 as the DB.
NOTE: The discrepant SS-5 is not being ignored in this example. It is merely being given lower probative value than other evidence. A written DB determination is required per GN 00302.405.
E. Example 3
In the same situation as Example 2, the claimant actually presents a 1930 census record at the initial interview which indicates a DB of 2/2/22. Given the one-year variance in some 1930 census records (see GN 00302.730), the consistency of the other proofs of relatively high probative value, and the claimant's explanation of the discrepant DB shown on the SS-5, it is reasonable to determine 2/2/21 as the DB.