What You Need to Know About the 2020 Census
What is the Census?
The Constitution requires that the federal government count every individual living in the U.S. every 10 years. This is done through the census. The goal is full participation regardless of age, race, religion, or immigration status – everyone must participate and be counted. It is important that everyone participates because the census directly affects the distribution of more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually, including funding for schools, roads, hospitals, and social service programs. Census data are used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets and draw congressional districts, and they impact redistricting at all levels of government. The next Census Day is April 1, 2020. Although Census Day is one day every ten years, census implementation is ongoing from January to August 2020. Your participation in the census is easy, secure, and vital.
Why should I fill out the census?
Census data help ensure your family and community are able to thrive. Census data directly affect how federal funding is allocated yearly to communities for schools, roads, and hospitals, as well as vital social programs such as Medicaid, Headstart, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Census data are also critical to ensuring your voice is heard in our political system, as the data are used to determine how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state gets and to redraw political districts at all levels of government.
Who will get the 2020 Census form?
In 2020, households will be able to respond to the census with a paper form, online, or by phone. In March 2020, census materials will be mailed in three waves over approximately one week. Eighty percent of homes will receive a letter inviting them to respond online, and 20 percent of homes will receive a paper census form in the first mailing. Federal law requires that everyone participate. All homes will get a language assistance sheet with toll-free phone numbers providing multilingual assistance, and anyone can fill out the census by phone. Language assistance is available on the internet and by phone in 12 non-English languages, and language assistance in the form of printed and video guides will be available in 59 non-English languages. The paper form, however, will only be in English and Spanish. See how the Census Bureau invites everyone to respond.
What will the 2020 Census ask me?
The 2020 Census form asks 9 questions. Questions include: name, sex, age and date of birth, race, Hispanic origin, how the people in the household are related to each other, and whether the home is rented or owned. The form will NOT include a question on citizenship. For more information, you can check www.CountUsIn2020.org. The data collected are protected by confidentiality laws and cannot be shared by the Census Bureau with other government agencies or law enforcement entities.
How do I fill out the census?
For the first time, people will have an option to complete their census form online. The Census Bureau will encourage everyone who can to respond using the internet, but paper forms will continue to be available. Households with indicators of low internet access or use will simultaneously receive the paper form and information about responding online. In addition, people will be able to report their answers by phone.
Are my responses to the census safe?
All census information is confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s information with anyone, including other government agencies and law enforcement entities. For more information on confidentiality, see www.CountUsIn2020.org/resources.
Federal law protects your information. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code, which has strong confidentiality protections for census data. Every person with access to your data is sworn for life to protect your information. If anyone violates this law, it is a federal crime; penalties are severe, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Additionally, responses collected by the Census Bureau are used for statistical purposes only. The Census Bureau publishes only aggregated statistics and may not publish information that would identify an individual, business, or organization. Federal, state, and local government agencies are prohibited from using statistical datasets produced by the Census Bureau to the detriment of any individual who responded to a census.
How do I identify a census worker?
Census workers have ID badges which contain a photograph of the field representative, the Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. They will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the regional office phone number for verification, and a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on Census Bureau letterhead. They may also carry a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.
“Hard-to-Count” and “Undercount:” What this means for our community
Today, roughly one in five Asian Americans and one of three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in hard-to-count neighborhoods. Some AANHPI communities are especially at risk of being missed in the census count because of greater challenges in finding stable and affordable housing; higher incidences of poverty, unemployment, and lower educational attainment; and greater language barriers.
Hard-to-count population groups are at a higher risk of not being fully counted in the census. Some of these groups have been historically underrepresented in the census for decades; some may experience new or increased vulnerability due to major changes in methodology, such as relying on the internet as the primary way for households to respond to the 2020 Census; and some may be reluctant to respond due to concerns about data confidentiality. Being hard-to-count can lead to a disproportionate undercount in the census which leads to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital public and private resources for these groups and their communities. AANHPIs have been undercounted for decades, disadvantaging their families, communities, and neighborhoods.
Misconceptions About the Census
Misconceptions about the census can stop people from participating in the census. The most common misconceptions about the census are that the data are used to locate people living in the country without documentation, used by the FBI and police to keep track of people who break the law, or shared with landlords. All census information is confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s information with anyone, including other government agencies, law enforcement entities, and landlords.
There are also misconceptions about who should participate in the census. Everyone should be counted regardless of age, race, religion, or immigration status. There has historically been an undercount of children under age 5, and children should be counted in the census. There are also misconceptions about who should be included in the census form. Everyone who lives in a household—even if they are not related to each other—should be included in the census form. While the census requires mandatory participation, historically respondents have skipped questions and have still been counted during that census.