Census 2020 - Everyone Counts!
Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Decennial Census? 

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a population count of everyone in the U.S. Data from the census provides the basis for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to communities across the country to support vital programs - impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care, and public policy. It is also used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts and accurately determine the number of congressional seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

2. Why is it important to me? 

Responding to the census is not only your civic duty; it also affects the amount of funding your community receives, how your community plans for the future, and your representation in government. Specifically, data from the 2020 Census is used to:

  • Ensure public services and funding for schools, hospitals, and fire departments.
  • Plan new homes and businesses, and improve neighborhoods.
  • Determine how many seats your state is allocated in the House of Representatives.

3. When will I complete the Census? 

Beginning in mid-March, you will receive a notice in the mail to complete the 2020 Census. You can respond online. April 1, 2020 is the official beginning of the 2020 Census. Once you receive it, you can respond online. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin following up in person with households that haven’t responded to the census.

4. How can I respond? 

In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online, but you can still respond by phone or mail if you prefer. Responding should take less time than it takes to finish your morning coffee.

5. What information will be requested? 

The decennial census will collect basic information about the people living in your household. When completing the census, you should count everyone who is living in your household on April 1, 2020.

The Census Bureau will NEVER ask for:

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

6. Will my information be kept confidential? 

Yes! Strict federal law protects your census responses. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual. Census Bureau employees take a lifelong pledge of confidentiality to handle data responsibly and keep respondents’ information private. 

The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years or both. No law enforcement agency (not the DHS, ICE, FBI or CIA) can access or use your personal information at any time. Data collected can only be used for statistical purposes that help inform important decisions, including how much federal funding your community receives.

The Census Bureau has a robust cyber security program that incorporates industry best practices and federal security standards for encrypting data.

8. What do the 2020 Census forms look like? 

View a sample census form.

8. Where can I go to learn more? 

2020 Census Website

Census 101: What you need to know [PDF]