Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the Census?

The U.S. Constitution mandates that every 10 years the U.S. government count every person residing in the United States through the Census. The data collected is the basis of our democratic representation, critical to the protection of civil rights, used to annually distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to states and local communities, and helps businesses and other sectors make informed decisions. The data collected is used for the next decade.

 

Does it make a difference whether I participate in the census?

A fair and accurate Census is one of the most significant civil rights and economic justice issues facing our country today. In addition to ensuring fair political representation, enforcing civil rights laws and effective policy planning, census data are used to distribute federal, state, and local resources equitably and prudently. Federal agencies use census data to allocate over $800 billion each year for vital community services such as emergency response, hospitals, job-training centers, schools, senior centers, nutrition assistance programs, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects. 

 

Communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants and young children have historically been undercounted, which has deprived these already vulnerable communities of the fair representation and vital community resources we all need to build a thriving community. Your community can only get the full funding and representation it deserves when every single individual is counted in the Census -- including you, your family, and every person who lives in your household.

 

How do I respond to the Census?

The 2020 Census will be the first census to offer an online response option. However, everyone has the option of participating in the Census on paper through the mail, over the phone, or online. Most households (80%) will receive a letter in the mail inviting them to respond online with a unique identification code. With the identification code, you will be able to fill out the 2020 Census online. If you do not respond online using the identification code provided in the mail, a paper questionnaire will be sent to you which you can fill out and mail back to the Census Bureau. The other 20% of households, mostly seniors and people with no internet, will be sent a paper questionnaire to be completed and returned by mail. Those mailings will also include the option to complete the survey online.

If you do not respond to the paper questionnaire or skip questions on the form, individual Census official will try to contact you by knocking on your door. 

Is the information that I provide confidential?

Yes. The U.S. Census Bureau will keep your responses to the survey secure and encrypted at all times.

Several legal protections exist to safeguard your privacy and the confidentiality of your responses. Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, census data can only be used for statistical purposes, meaning personal information cannot be used against respondents in court or by a government agency. Personal census information cannot be disclosed for 72 years (includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and telephone numbers). Census Bureau staff who have access to personal information are sworn for life to protect confidentiality. The Census Act includes strict confidentiality provisions prohibiting any employees of the Commerce Department or Census Bureau from using information collected via the decennial census for anything other than the production of statistical datasets.

If I am not a US citizen, does the Census still count me?

Yes. The U.S. Constitution requires that the Census counts every resident in the United States regardless of their immigration status. All people should be counted to ensure that our community is fully counted.  

Will there be a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census?

No! As a result of the June 27 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the administration has abandoned its plans to add a question on U.S. citizenship to the 2020 Census. Judges in all three lower court cases (New York, Maryland, California) issued orders to permanently block:

  • Addition of the citizenship question or any effort to ask about citizenship on the 2020 Census.

  • Any delay in the printing of Census questionnaires after June 30. 

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