The 2020 Census

What is the Census, and why is it important?

The Census, conducted once every 10 years, is the constitutionally-required count of every person living in the United States. Census data are used to make decisions about how and where to spend more than $800 billion each year for programs and services that communities rely on, such as schools, roads, hospitals, libraries, and other public services.

When does the Census start?

Most households will receive their Census materials by U.S. mail or hand-delivery starting in mid-March. The online and telephone response options will be available March 12, 2020. By April 1, 2020, you will receive an invitation to participate in the Census. Starting in May 2020, the Census Bureau will begin following up in person with homes that have not responded to the Census. Please see the table below for the complete timeline of key Census activities.

January 2020

Census Questionnaire Assistance will be available to answer general questions about the census from mid-January through early September 2020. However, the self-response period for the telephone option will run from mid-March through the end of July.

February 2020

The Census Bureau will contact administrators of group quarters (military barracks, college dorms, prisons, and skilled nursing homes, among others) in advance of the enumeration of these locations, which will occur in April.

March 12, 2020

The internet self-response period will start as households begin to receive invitations to respond, either through the mail or hand-delivered to households in many rural and remote areas. Households may continue to self-respond through July 31.

March 30, 2020

Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) will begin. This three-day/night enumeration occurs at shelters, locations that provide services for people experiencing homelessness, and targeted outdoor locations where people experiencing homelessness sleep.

April 1, 2020

Census Day! Respondents do not have to wait until April 1 to respond but should include everyone who will be a "usual resident" on April 1. If people aren't sure, they can wait until April 1 to respond.

April 2020

Group quarters will be counted during April.

May 13, 2020

Nonresponse Follow-up (NRFU) will begin. During NRFU, the Census Bureau will follow up with households that did not self-respond to the census by sending reminders and/or visiting in person. NRFU will continue through July. (In communities with large numbers of off-campus college students, NRFU will begin on April 9, to reach students before the academic term ends.)

How do I make sure I count myself in the right place?

To ensure a complete and accurate count, the Census Bureau counts people at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time, with a few exceptions. People who do not have a usual residence should be counted where they are on Census Day (April 1, 2020).

How can I respond to the census?

The 2020 Census will be the first to urge most households to respond online, but people will also have the option of responding by phone or paper questionnaire. The online and phone questionnaire will be available in 13 languages. The paper forms will only be available in English and bilingual English-Spanish.

How long does it take to fill out the form?

The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete.

How will the online response option work?

Almost all households will receive an invitation letter in the mail with instructions for responding to the census online. The invitation will include a Census ID or User ID. Using the Census ID helps the Bureau keep track of responses and prevent duplication. If respondents don’t have their Census ID handy, they can use their address instead.

In what languages will the online form be available?

The online form will be available in English and 12 non-English languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. If respondents have questions about the online form, they can contact Census Questionnaire Assistance for support in the same 13 languages. Respondents can also complete the questionnaire over the phone when they call.

Where can I complete the census?

You can complete the Census at home, over the phone or you can come to the Library to use a public computer. The online form will be optimized to allow people to respond on a smartphone or tablet.

What questions does the census ask?

The Census asks how many people are in your household and whether the home is owned or rented. You'll be asked to count the number of people, including babies and people who may not have a permanent address, who are living or staying in your home. You’ll be asked to answer questions about age, race or ethnicity, and relationships of people living at your address.

Will I be asked about my citizenship or immigration status?

No. The 2020 Census will not include a question about citizenship or immigration status.

What happens if a person misses a question?

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.

How does the Census Bureau protect my data?

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential, and will never share your information with immigration enforcement agencies or law enforcement agencies. The security of Census Bureau systems is a top priority, and their IT infrastructure is designed to defend against and contain cyberthreats. Please also know that 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

What should I do if I have a question or a problem?

People can call Census Questionnaire Assistance toll-free for answers to questions or to provide their household responses by phone. The phone number will be available in early 2020.

Where can I learn more about the census?