What is the decennial census?

The census is required by the Constitution, and has been conducted since 1790. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census to count everyone living in all 50 states, D.C. and 5 U.S. Territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). 

Why do we have a census?

Census data is used by the government in a variety of important decisions, including allocation of nearly $1 trillion in federal funds each year; determination of where roads, bridges, and schools will be built; and apportionment of federal, state, and local government representatives for communities.

Who is counted in the Census?

Everyone living in all 50 states, D.C. & 5 U.S. Territories is required to complete the census, regardless of immigration or citizenship status When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020. 

How is the census taken?

By April 1, every household will receive an invitation to complete the census either online, by phone, or by mail. There are special efforts underway by the Census Bureau to count the homeless and people living in group quarters such as nursing homes, student dormitories, and prisons. For more information about special circumstances, visit https://2020census.gov/en/who-to-count.html

What questions will be asked on the census?

The 2020 census will ask questions such as:

  • How many people are living or staying in the household as of April 1, 2020
  • If the home is owned or rented 
  • The sex of each person in the home
  • The race of each person in the household
  • The age and date of birth of each person in the home
  • A phone number for a person in the home
  • Whether each person in the home is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin
  • About the relationship of each person in the home to a central person in the household

The census will not ask about citizenship or immigration status. 

Is the census only in English?

Paper forms will be available in English and Spanish, while the Census Bureau will collect responses in 11 other languages online and by phone. The other languages include Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Tagalog. Video and printed guides will also be available in 59 non-English languages, as well as braille and large-print.

Is information taken by the census private?

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep identifiable information confidential. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. Census workers take an lifetime oath to protect the privacy of respondents and face jail time and/or heavy fines if they violate that oath.

Why should nonprofits care about the census?

Many communities that are served by nonprofits are at risk of being undercounted in the census, resulting in less funding and resources being allocated to those communities. Groups traditionally undercounted include communities of color, low-income households, immigrants, and young children.