What Is the 2020 Census?

Respond online to the 2020 Census.

The census count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency.

The 2020 U.S. Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire – online, by phone or by mail. This is the first time residents will have the opportunity to respond to the census online.

Why This Count Is Conducted

The census provides critical data lawmakers, business owners, teachers and many others use to provide daily services, products and support for the community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding are distributed to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and many additional resources based on census data.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, mandates that the country conduct a count of its population once every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time the country has counted its population since 1790.

Counting Everyone

 Participating in the census is required by law, even if a community recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. A complete and accurate count is critical for the community, because the results of the 2020 Census will affect funding, congressional representation and more.

Visit the 2020 Census response rate web page or view the 2020 Census response rate map for real-time access to how municipalities across the country are responding. The map is updated daily.

In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, residents should respond in one of three ways: online, by phone or by mail.

Census Day 2020

Wednesday, April 1 is Census Day, a key reference date for the 2020 Census. When completing the census, be sure to include everyone living in the home Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

Overall Timeline

Counting every person living in the United States is a massive undertaking, and efforts begin years in advance. Here’s a look at some of the key dates for 2020:

2020

  • March 12-20: Households will receive official Census Bureau mail with detailed information regarding how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail.
  • March 16-April 16: Reminder letters and postcards mailed to homes where no response is received.
  • March 30-April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.
  • April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, residents should respond. When responding, tell the Census Bureau where you live as of Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
  • April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality-check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
  • April 8-16: Reminder letter plus questionnaire mailed to homes where no response is received.
  • May-July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.
  • December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

2021

  • March 31: By this date, the U.S. Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

The census can shape many different aspects of the community including health clinics, fire departments, schools, even roads and highways.

  • Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities annually.
  • The results determine how many seats in Congress each state gets.
  • It’s mandated by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2: The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.
Every U.S. Census Bureau employee takes an oath to protect personal information for life. When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics.

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

Getting a complete and accurate count in 2020 requires everyone’s help. And there are many ways for individuals, businesses, community organizations and others to play a part.

  • Partner With Us. Hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, policymakers and individuals are spreading the word about the 2020 Census and why it’s important to participate.
    Join Us.
  • Spread the Word. You can share the most up-to-date and accurate Census Bureau news and information with your friends, family and followers on your social media accounts.
  • Work Together. The Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of people across the country to assist with the 2020 Census. Earn extra income while helping your community.
    Apply Now

Everyone living in the 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Why It’s Required

Getting a complete and accurate census count is critically important. That’s why your response is required by law. If you do not respond, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up in person to collect your response.

Why is the census so important? The results are used to determine how much funding local communities receive for key public services and how many seats each state gets in Congress. State and local officials also use census counts to draw boundaries for congressional, state legislative and school districts.

While you are required by law to participate, the Census Bureau is also required by law to protect your answers. Your responses are used only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information.

Special Living Situations

People in some special living situations may have questions about how to respond. This includes:

  • Students
  • Service members
  • People in correctional facilities
  • People who move on Census Day (Wednesday, April 1, 2020)
  • People who do not have a fixed address

Participation in Other Census Surveys

The Census Bureau will continue to conduct other surveys, like the American Community Survey, during 2020. If you are contacted about another survey, it is very important to participate. But you will still be required to respond to the 2020 Census even if you participate in another survey.

There are three ways to respond to the 2020 Census.

By Wednesday, April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will have three options for responding:

  • Online
  • By phone
  • By mail

The 2020 Census marks the first time you’ll have the option to respond online. You can even respond on your mobile device.

Special Circumstances

For some people, it’s not clear how they should count themselves or the people in their home. These circumstances may include:

  • People who live in more than one place.
  • People who are moving on Census Day (Wednesday, April 1, 2020).
  • People who are born or die on Census Day (Wednesday, April 1, 2020).
  • People experiencing homelessness.

The 2020 Census is easy. The questions are simple.

As required by the Census Act, the U.S. Census Bureau submitted a list of questions to Congress on March 29, 2018. Based on those questions, the 2020 Census will ask:

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.This will help the U.S. Census Bureau count the entire U.S. population and ensure that people are counted according to where they live on Census Day.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help the U.S. Census Bureau produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. This also helps in administering housing programs and informing planning decision makers.
  • About the sex of each person in your home.This allows the U.S. Census Bureau to create statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. This data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations and policies against discrimination.
  • About the age of each person in your home.The U.S. Census Bureau creates statistics to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use this data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older adults.
  • About the race of each person in your home.This allows the U.S. Census Bureau to create statistics about race and to provide other statistics by racial groups. This data helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  • About whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This is needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  • About the relationship of each person in your home. This allows the Census Bureau to create estimates about families, households and other groups. Relationship data is used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone.

Governments, businesses, communities and nonprofits rely on the data these questions produce to make critical decisions.

The Census Will Never Ask Certain Questions

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Money or donations
  • Anything on behalf of a political party
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these items, it’s a scam, do not cooperate.

What Happens to Your Answers?

Your personal information is kept confidential. The Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information and your data is used only for statistical purposes.

Your responses are compiled with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home.

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

Our Legal Duty to Protect Your Information

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your 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. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. Your identity and information are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.

Data Protection and Privacy Program

Being responsible stewards of your data is not only required by law, it is embedded in Census Bureau culture. Strict policies and statistical safeguards help protect the confidentiality of your information.

Secure Technology

From the beginning of the data collection process, the Census Bureau follows industry best practices and federal requirements to protect your data.

The security of Census Bureau systems is a top priority, and its IT infrastructure is designed to defend against and contain cyber threats. The Census Bureau continually refines its approach to identifying, preventing, detecting and responding to these threats.

The U.S. Census Bureau is committed to making the 2020 Census quick, easy and safe for all participants. Here are some tips to help you stay safe.

Avoiding Scams Online

Phishing is a criminal act in which someone tries to get your information by pretending to be an entity that you trust. Phishing emails often direct you to a website that looks real but is fake and may be infected with malware.

It is important to know that the Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census. Further, during the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Money or donations
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers

In addition, the Census Bureau will not contact you on behalf of a political party.

Staying Safe At Home

If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 Census, you can do the following to verify their identity:

  • First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
  • If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 1-800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.

Reporting Suspected Fraud

If you suspect fraud, call 1-800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact the Grove City Division of Police at 614-277-1710.

There are several ways that you can contact the U.S. Census Bureau for support.

For general questions: Call 1-301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282.

For information on services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing: Call the TTY number at 1-800-877-8339 to reach the Federal Relay Service.