Frequently Asked Questions  

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Below are some FAQs from the US Census website.

Q: Why should I complete the Census?

  • It's important. The 2020 Census counts are used for reapportionment, redistricting, distribution of federal funds. An accurate count is essential for our state. 
  • It's easy. You can complete the census online, using your smartphone, over the phone, or by filling out a paper form. It will ask for your name, address, sex, age, race, ethnicity, relationship and housing tenure.
  • It's safe. The privacy of your responses is guaranteed by law. Census workers are sworn to secrecy and subject to a $250,000 fine and jail time. The Census Bureau cannot share your answers with the FBI, the CIA, welfare, immigration, or even the President.
  • It's required. Responding to the Census is required by Title 13 of the United States Code, the same law that guarantees the privacy of your responses.

Q: Where should I be counted?

A: People who live at two or more residences 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 United States 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.

For a more complete answer read 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations

Q: What if I am away from my residence on April 1, 2020?

A: People are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time, even if travelling away from their usual resident on Census Day. 

Q: How can I respond?

A:In 2020 you can respond to the census on-line (using a computer or a smart phone), over the telephone, or by submitting a paper form. Early in 2020 all census addresses will receive a card inviting the residents to complete the census. The 2020 Census provide people with a URL so they can complete the census online, a toll-free telephone number if they want to call in their responses, and an address to request a paper form.

Q: Will a Census worker come to my door?

A: In most cases, no. The Census Bureau will send out multiple notices encouraging people to respond. Some of these mailings will include the census form. Census workers will only visit those addresses that did not respond to a previous mailing.

However, if you are visited by someone from the 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.

Q: Will the Census form be available in multiple languages?

A: Yes. The U.S. Census Bureau will make the census questionnaire and other materials available in multiple languages based on its understanding of populations in the United States with limited English-speaking households.

  • The Census questionnaire will be available in Spanish as a print version, as well as on the enumerators’ tablets as options when doing field enumeration.
  • The Internet Self-Response Instrument will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.
  • The Census Bureau will provide Census Questionnaire Assistance by phone in English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese, as well as in American Sign Language.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau will produce a glossary of census terms, a card for enumerators to identify the language of the household, and video and print guides will be available in 59 non-English languages. 
  • For populations that speak languages beyond the 59 supported languages, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to create video shells and print templates for adaptation.

Q: 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.

Q: Why does the Census Bureau ask the questions they do?

A: 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. 

Q: What is the American Community Survey?

A: 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 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.

Q: Are my answers safe and secure?

A: 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. 

Q: How does the U.S. Census Bureau help me identify scams?

A: 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.

Q: Why was my household or business selected?

A: Most survey samples are address-based, others are telephone number- or person-based. The U.S. Census Bureau randomly selected your household or business through a process of scientific sampling. We collect data from a sample of the population to produce estimates for the entire population. This ensures that a small sample represents the entire group covered by the survey.

Q: How are surveys done?

A:  Household surveys are conducted via mail, telephone, personal visit (with a laptop, Smartphone, tablet, or a few with paper questionnaires), online, or using a combination of these methods. We conduct business surveys in a variety of ways; however, most surveys can be completed using the internet, either via direct online submission or by downloading and using census-approved survey software.

We conduct household surveys: 

  • online/internet
  • by mail

  • by phone or

  • in-person

We conduct business surveys:

  • online/internet

  • by mail

  • by email

  • by fax

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) conducts a telephone prescreener operation (to confirm contact information and eligibility) prior to mailing materials to a business.

Q: How will you contact me?

A: For household surveys, once we select your address, we send you an official letter from the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Because most surveys are “addressed-based,” and we do not know who lives there, most letters are addressed to “the resident of."

  • Depending on the survey, there may be four options for responding: online, completing and mailing back the paper form, over the phone with one of our Contact Center interviewers, or a personal visit with one of our Regional Office field representatives.

  • If we mailed you a form, and we did not receive a completed survey from you, we may follow up with a phone call or personal visit.

For businesses, once selected, will receive a survey invitation via mail, email, or fax. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), conducts a telephone prescreener operation (to confirm contact information and eligibility) prior to mailing materials to a business.

  • Your letter or form will include instructions on how to respond. If online reporting is available, we will provide a URL and the necessary credentials to log onto our electronic reporting website and access your survey.

Q: Is this a real survey?

A: To verify that a household survey is legitimate, please refer to our list of Household Surveys first.  You can also verify that the person contacting you is a Census Bureau employee by entering the name into the Census Bureau Staff Search.  If you still have questions or concerns contact the Regional Office for your state and ask, “Am I in a survey?”

To verify that a business survey is legitimate, please refer to the list of business surveys.  If you still have questions or concerns contact the phone number listed on your letter. 

Q: Is the caller or visitor a U.S. Census Bureau employee?

A: To verify that a visitor to your household is legitimate, you can confirm that he or she is a Census Bureau employee by entering his or her name into the Census Bureau Staff Search or by contacting the Regional Office for your state.  Our field staff will always show a valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter we sent you.

To verify that a caller to your household or business is legitimate, call or e-mail the National Processing Center.

Q: Do I have to participate in the survey?

A: The Census Bureau will always tell you whether your participation is mandatory or voluntary, and we encourage you to answer all questions asked.  To learn more about which surveys require mandatory participation, please find your survey - List of All Surveys.

Q: Why does the U.S. Census Bureau do surveys?

A: The Census Bureau's mission is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy.

Q: When is my survey due?

A: The letter or form will contain a specific date, or ask you to respond within a certain number of days of receipt.  For more information on when your specific survey is due, please find your survey or contact your Regional Office. Note: For some surveys, you may request more time.

Q: When will the results from the census be available?

A: 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 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.