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U.S. Census Information Guide: Home

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts several data collection programs about the U.S. population which have their own language, geography, and data portals.
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How the Census Will Invite Everyone to Respond

Every household will have the option of responding online, by mail, or by phone.

New to the 2020 Census

Online Self-Response

For the first time ever, the Census Bureau is promoting the Online Self-Response option as the preferred method of completing the Census. Respondents will receive an ID code in the mail to enter when completing the online form. Respondents can also use their address instead of the ID code. The online questionnaire will be available in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese [Simplified], English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese).

The online option will make responding easier for some, as they can just enter the information at their convenience. However, many still do not have reliable internet access and/or the necessary skills to respond to the form online. Libraries, the Census Bureau, and other organizations are working together to find solutions to those problems.

The Census will also be available via phone or paper form, as well.

Same-Sex Marriage Option

For the first time, the 2020 Census will include options that indicate a same-sex relationship with another household member. This change is expected to improve national statistics on same-sex couples. 


What About Confidentiality?

"All responses to Census Bureau surveys and censuses are confidential and protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. Under this law, the Census Bureau is required to keep respondent information confidential. We will never share a respondent’s personal information with immigration enforcement agencies, like ICE; law enforcement agencies, like the FBI or police; or allow it to be used to determine their eligibility for government benefits.
The results from any census or survey are reported in statistical format only. Individual records from the decennial censuses are, by law (Title 44, U.S. Code), confidential for 72 years."
-2020 Census Complete Count Committee Guide, US Census Bureau. 

Be wary that some scammers may try to get your information by pretending to be from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau will never text or email you, and they will never ask you to provide a donation, financial information (a credit card number, a blank check, etc.), or a social security number.

What is the Census,
and Does it Matter?

The census, conducted once every ten years, is the constitutionally-required count of every person living in the United States. It's a huge and complex endeavor, one with an enormous impact on all our communities. The 2020 Census will be the first to urge most households to respond online, but people will have the option of responding by phone or paper questionnaire.

The decennial census form asks questions about all the people who live and sleep in a household most of the time--including babies and anyone who has no other permanent place to stay and is staying on the household--as of April 1, 2020. The census form should take about 10 minutes to complete, depending on the number of people in the household.

Census data are used to make decisions about how and where to spend more than $800 billion each year for programs and services that communities rely on. The census population count is used to determine representation in Congress (known as reapportionment) and the Electoral College. Simply put, communities that are undercounted are disadvantaged economically and politically. 

Communities also use census data for planning purposes. For example, local school districts may not be able to plan effectively for changing needs if large numbers of young children are not counted, as has been the case in previous censuses. Census data help local leaders make planning decisions about where municipal services should be located, whether they should expand, and what kinds of services should be offered based on the characteristics of the community.

2020 Census Timeline

  • January – March 2019: The U.S. Census Bureau opens 39 area census offices. These offices open early to support Address Canvassing.
  • June – September 2019: The Census Bureau opens the remaining 209 area census offices. The offices support and manage the census takers who work all over the country to conduct the census.
  • August 2019: The Census Bureau conducts in-field address canvassing. Census takers visit areas that have added or lost housing in recent years to ensure that the Census Bureau's address list is up to date.
  • January 2020: The Census Bureau begins counting the population in remote Alaska.
  • April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, households will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You'll then have three options for responding: online, by mail, or by phone.
  • April 2020: Census takers begin following up with households around selected colleges and universities. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews.
  • May 2020: The Census Bureau begins following up with households that have not responded.
  • December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the president.

What About The Citizenship Question?

The "citizenship question" will NOT be included in the 2020 Census.

Much has been made about potentially including a question about whether or not census respondents are American citizens. Three federal courts have since blocked the Trump Administration's attempt to get this question onto census forms.

The Trump Administration's Perspective

During his testimony before Congress, the Secretary of Commerce (the department which distributes the Census), Wilbur Ross, said the question was added because Justice Department requested more citizenship data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. Members of the administration--and some Supreme Court Justices--also stated that questions about citizenship were nothing new and that similar questions have been included in most US Censuses. Many historians have stated that this is an oversimplification. Regardless, the citizenship question was defeated in court, as the Trump administration was unable to prove that its motives for including the question were related to the Voting Rights Act. President Trump offered this statement in response and issued an executive order to collect citizenship data via other agencies. 

The Arguments Against The Citizenship Question

Protesters argued that questions of citizenship have previously been used to the detriment of non-citizens, including the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. They also argued that citizens and non-citizens alike may choose not to answer the question or not to take the census out of fear or as a form of protest, resulting in inaccurate data. Specifically, detractors were worried that this would lead to an undercount of vulnerable populations who already lack political power. For a scholarly challenge to the citizenship question, use Discovery Search to find more information.