Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a population count of everyone in the United States. Data from the census provide 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. They also are 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.
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 are 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.
The next census will take place in 2020. Beginning in mid-March, people will receive a notice in the mail to complete 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.
When it’s time to respond, most households will receive an invitation in the mail.
Every household will have the option of responding online, by mail, or by phone. In 2020, for the first time ever, the Census Bureau will accept responses online and by phone. Responding should take less time than it takes to finish your morning coffee. You can still respond by mail.
Depending on how likely your area is to respond online, you’ll receive either an invitation encouraging you to respond online or an invitation asking you to go online to complete the census questionnaire.
Most areas of the country are likely to respond online, so most households will receive a letter asking you to go online to complete the census questionnaire. Look for this letter on or between March 12-20.
Letter Invitation and Paper Questionnaire
Areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with their invitation. The invitation will also include information about how to respond online or by phone. Look for this letter on or between March 12-20.
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 cybersecurity program that incorporates industry best practices and federal security standards for encrypting data.
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.
- Decision making at all levels of government
- Drawing federal, state and local legislative districts
- Attracting new businesses to state and local areas
- Distributing billions in federal funds and even more in state funds
- Forecasting future transportation needs for all segments of the population
- Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services
- Forecasting future housing needs for all segments of the population
- Directing funds for services for people in poverty
- Designing public safety strategies
- Development of rural areas
- Analyzing local trends
- Estimating the number of people displaced by natural disasters
- Developing assistance programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives
- Creating maps to speed emergency services to households in need of assistance
- Delivering goods and services to local markets
- Designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly or children
- Planning future government services
- Planning investments and evaluating financial risk
- Publishing economic and statistical reports about the United States and its people
- Facilitating scientific research
- Developing “intelligent” maps for government and business
- Providing proof of age, relationship, or residence certificates provided by the Census Bureau
- Distributing medical research
- Reapportioning seats in the House of Representatives
- Planning and researching for media as backup for news stories
- Providing evidence in litigation involving land use, voting rights and equal opportunity
- Drawing school district boundaries
- Planning budgets for government at all levels
- Spotting trends in the economic well-being of the nation
- Planning for public transportation services
- Planning health and educational services for people with disabilities
- Establishing fair market rents and enforcing fair lending practices
- Directing services to children and adults with limited English language proficiency
- Planning urban land use
- Planning outreach strategies
- Understanding labor supply
- Assessing the potential for spread of communicable diseases
- Analyzing military potential
- Making business decisions
- Understanding consumer needs
- Planning for congregations
- Locating factory sites and distribution centers
- Distributing catalogs and developing direct ail pieces
- Setting a standard for creating both public and private sector surveys
- Evaluating programs in different geographic areas
- Providing genealogical research
- Planning for school projects
- Developing adult education programs
- Researching historical subject areas
- Determining areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans