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Census 2020: FAQs

A guide to the 2020 Federal Census

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the 2020 Census start?

The enumeration starts in remote Alaska on January 21, 2020, but most households will receive their census materials by U.S. mail or hand delivery starting in mid-March. Online and telephone response options will be available starting after March 12.

What is “Census Day,” and why is it important?

April 1 is “Census Day.” When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020, and include everyone living in your home on that day (including newborns and anyone staying there who does not have a usual home elsewhere). While April 1 is the reference date, people can submit their questionnaire before or after that date.

When is the last day people can respond?

To avoid a home visit from a Census Bureau employee, people should respond before the end of April 2020. The Census Bureau will begin in-person visits in May, although households can still respond online, by phone, or by mail until July 31.

How long does it take to fill out the form?

The Census Bureau estimates that it will take about 10 minutes to complete the census questionnaire, depending on the number of people in the household.

What happens if I leave some responses blank?

The Census Bureau strongly encourages respondents to answer every question for every person in the household, but will allow submission of incomplete questionnaires. Bureau staff may follow up on incomplete submissions.

In what languages will the paper form be available?

Paper questionnaires will be either in English or bilingual English-Spanish (with Spanish-only forms in Puerto Rico).

What should people do if they have a question or problem?

The Census Questionnaire Assistance phone line will be available with live customer service representatives supporting 13 languages and TDD from March 9 through July 31. Call toll-free 844-330-2020. People can also find general answers about the 2020 Census at 2020census.gov.

Do people have to respond online?

No, households have the option to respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail.

In what languages will the online form be printed?

The online form will be available in English and 12 non-English languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Can people respond on a smartphone or tablet?

Yes, the online form will be optimized to allow people to respond on a smartphone or tablet.

Is the online system secure?

Yes, the Census Bureau has taken significant steps to protect online responses. All information entered online is encrypted as soon as the respondent hits “submit.”

How will we know if the census online form was successfully submitted?

Once a respondent completes and submits the online form, a new screen will confirm submission. The respondent may print that page for their records. The Census Bureau will not email or text households to confirm response to the census.

Can library staff help people complete the online form?

In certain ways, yes. Library staff can direct respondents to the response option that best suits their needs: online, phone, mail, or a census taker visit to their home. Library staff can also point respondents to the online questionnaire guides in English and 59 other languages. In addition, library staff can explain basic features of the online form, such as how to navigate the pages or change the language. However, only Census Bureau employees may collect responses directly from individuals, and only they are sworn for life to keep an individual’s responses confidential. For more guidance, see the Census Bureau’s Questions and Answers for Stakeholders Supporting the 2020 Census.

Where do active military personnel and their families get counted?

If stationed at a military installation in the United States, they will be counted at their usual residence either on-base or off-base. If stationed overseas, they will be counted as part of the federally affiliated overseas population, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. If they are stationed stateside but deployed overseas during the census, they will be counted at their usual residence in the U.S. If they are aboard a military vessel, they will be counted at either their usual U.S. residence or as a part of the federally affiliated overseas population—depending on whether the vessel’s homeport is in the U.S. or overseas.

Is there a way to report scams if we see them?

Report suspected fraud to the Census Bureau at 800-923-8282. To report false information, email rumors@census.gov.

How do I identify an official census worker in person or over the phone?

Census workers must present an ID badge with their photo, the U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.

What languages will be supported in the 2020 Census?

The online and telephone questionnaires will be offered in 13 languages (including English). The paper form will be in English and bilingual English-Spanish, with Spanish-only forms in Puerto Rico. The Census Bureau also will provide language guides in 59 non-English languages that help respondents fill out the form in English.

In what ways will responding to the census be accessible for people with disabilities?

The Census Bureau will disseminate language guides in braille and large print to respondents through their partnership programs. Respondents will also have access to a video guide in American Sign Language to help complete the census online. Additionally, respondents may choose to complete the census in English via a phone line that uses Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD/TTY) technology. Learn more at GCPI’s FAQ on An Accessible 2020 Census.

Can census responses be shared with law enforcement or other government agencies?

No. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of personal information provided in census responses. Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing personal census responses with any other government agencies, courts, or private entities, for any purpose. Census staff take a lifetime oath to protect census responses, with severe penalties for violations. The law prohibits personal information collected by the Census Bureau from being used against respondents by any government agency or court.

I heard the U.S. Government used census data to identify and intern Japanese Americans during World War II. Why should we trust the government now?

The Census Act (Title 13 U.S.C.) did not provide the same level of strict confidentiality protections then as it does now. Furthermore, the standard protections that existed at the time were suspended under the Second War Powers Act starting in March 1942. Confidentiality provisions tied to census data were reinstated in 1947, and Congress subsequently amended the Census Act to close any potential “loopholes” related to the strict prohibition on sharing personally identifiable data outside of the Census Bureau for any purpose. In 2010, the U.S. Justice Department determined that the Patriot Act does not override the law that protects the confidentiality of individual census responses. No court of law can subpoena census responses or enforce such a subpoena issued by another entity (e.g., a government agency).

How should non-binary and transgender people complete the census form?

The National LGBTQ Task Force states: Like many surveys, the census restricts responses to “male” or “female” only. Transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people can self-identify in the way that feels most comfortable for them. The Census Bureau does not cross-reference individuals’ answers on the census with any other documentation.

 

From the ALA Libraries' Guide to the 2020 Census 

Census 2020

The official webpage for Census 2020: https://2020census.gov/en

What will I be asked?

The 2020 Census will ask:

  • How many people are living or staying in your home on April 1, 2020. This will help count the country's population, and ensure that people are counted once, only once, and in the right place according to where they live on Census Day.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help produce statistics about homeownership and renters. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation's economy. They also help in administering housing programs and informing planning decisions.
  • About the sex of each person in the household. This allows the 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 the household. Similar to recording the sex of each person, 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 populations. 
  • About the race of each person in the household. This allows the Census Bureau to create statistics about race and to present other statistics by racial groups. This data helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as under the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act.
  • About whether a person in the household 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 under the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  • About the relationship of each person in the household to one central person. 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, and other households that qualify for additional assistance.
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