Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a variety of questions frequently asked of the upcoming 2020 Census and the U.S. Census Bureau in general. For a beginner's guide to the 2020 Census, click here to read about the 2020 Census at a glance.
Where should I be counted?
People who live at two or more residences (during the week, month, or year), such as people who travel seasonally between residences (for example, snowbirds or children in joint custody) are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If usual residence cannot be determined, they are counted at the residence where they are staying on Thursday, April 1, 2020 (Census Day). College students living away from their parental home while attending college in the U.S. (living either on-campus or off-campus) are counted at the on-campus or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time. Those staying in shelter or living outdoors are counted where they are staying on April 1, 2020.
What if I am away from my residence on April 1, 2020?
People away from their usual residence on Census Day, such as on a vacation or a business trip, visiting, traveling outside the U.S., or working elsewhere without a usual residence there (for example, as a truck driver or traveling salesperson) are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time.
How can I respond?
The 2020 Census will still allow for traditional response methods such as phone or mail; however, for the first time, respondents will be able to complete their forms online. Non-responses will be followed up with in-person canvassing.
What’s the Census for?
The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a headcount every 10 years, of everyone residing in the United States: in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens, and noncitizens. The first census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then. The population totals from the 2020 census will determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative districts. The U.S. Census Bureau must submit state population totals to the President of the United States by December 31, 2020. The totals also affect funding in your community, and data collected in the census help inform decision makers how your community is changing.
Why does the Census Bureau ask the questions they do?
The Census Bureau asks the questions they do on the surveys because of federal needs and for community benefits. The information the Census Bureau collects helps determine how more than $675 billion dollars of federal funding annually is spent on infrastructure and services. Your answers help federal, state and local leaders make decisions about: schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, bridges, job training centers, and many other projects that affect your community. Click here to read more about all the important ways Census data are used.
What is the American Community Survey?
Launched in 2005, the American Community Survey (ACS) is part of the decennial census program and is essentially what used to be the Census long form. It collects more detailed information on housing, population, and the economy. ACS data are collected continuously throughout the year and throughout the decade from a sample (fraction) of the population (about 3 million addresses annually). Like the 2020 Census participation in the ACS is mandatory by law and the American public’s participation is vital to provide data that impacts policy decisions on the local, state, and federal level.
Are my answers safe and secure?
The Census Bureau collects data for statistical purposes only. They combine your responses with information from other households or businesses to produce statistics, which never identify your household, any person in your household, or business. Your information is CONFIDENTIAL. They never identify you individually. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information and violating this law is a crime with severe penalties. In addition, other federal laws, including the Confidential Statistical Efficiency Act and the Privacy Act reinforce these protections. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. It is against the law to disclose or publish any of the following information:
- Addresses, including GPS coordinates
- Social Security numbers
- Telephone numbers
How does the U.S. Census Bureau help me identify scams?
The Census Bureau will never ask for:
- Full social security number
- Money or donations
- Anything on behalf of a political party
- Your full bank or credit card account numbers
If you are visited by someone from the United States Census Bureau, here are some recognition tips to assure the validity of the field representative:
- Must present an ID Badge which contains: photograph of field representative, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date.
- Will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the regional office phone number for verification, if asked.
- Will provide you with a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on U.S. Census Bureau letterhead.
- May be carrying a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.
When will the results from the census be available?
The nation should see the very first results from the 2020 Census in the form of total population counts for the nation and each state in late 2020 or early 2021. In 2021 each state receives local-level 2020 Census data on race and the voting age population. As required by law, the Census Bureau will provide these key demographic data to the states (on a state-by-state basis), so the state governments can redraw the boundaries of their U.S. Congressional and state legislative districts. Public Law 94-171 requires that the redistricting data must be delivered to state officials responsible for legislative redistricting within one year of Census day or no later than April 1, 2021.