Now that the March California Presidential Primary election is over (you voted, didn’t you?), there is yet another civic duty in March that you need to participate in.
I recently went to a briefing for seniors on the Census 2020. The presenter, desiring to engage the audience, asked the question, “When was the first census?” One astute senior replied, “during biblical times.” This was not the answer he was expecting. He intended to ask, “When was the first US census?” and the answer, “1790.”
What is the census? Every resident needs to be counted every decade. Why? Isn’t this another invasion of privacy by the government?
No – here’s why: Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires an accurate enumeration or count of all residents every decennial or 10 years, originally to determine representation in the House of Representatives. Today this count is performed by the Census Bureau, an agency of the Commerce Department.
The 2020 Census will count everyone who lives in the US as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives. As well, elected officials use the data to allocate billions of dollars in federal funds to states annually over the next 10 years, including several hundred millions to California for community services which support our families. City, county and state and even school district boundaries are also re-drawn according to shifts in population.
Here is the 2020 Census Timeline:
March 12-20 Invitations to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire online will be mailed to households.
March 26-Apr 3 Reminder letters and postcards mailed
APRIL 1 CENSUS DAY
April 8-16 Second reminder and paper questionnaire mailed
April 20-27 Final reminder letter or postcard
May-July Census Bureau will visit remaining households which have not responded
The survey will be performed a little differently this year. Households will receive a postcard inviting them to complete the questionnaire securely online for everyone in the household. If this is not convenient, they can mail in the responses, or contact the Bureau by phone. If no response is received, a final reminder letter will be sent and then an “enumerator” will visit the household in person.
Here is the link to a sample questionnaire. It is marked “informational copy” because it doesn’t have the web address, phone number or mailing address to submit your responses. They will be added closer to Census Day. But all the questions are there. (You only need to complete one page for each resident in your household, so don’t be dismayed at the length of the document.)
Note that there is one question about home ownership or renting. This helps the Census produce statistics about home ownership and renting. The rates of home ownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. They also help with administering housing programs, planning, and decision-making.
And while you are required by law to participate, the Census Bureau is also required by law to protect your answers. Your responses are aggregated to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information to any agency of the government. In fact, Census employees take a non-disclosure oath. Even courts cannot order subpoenas for the census responses.
You’ll soon be seeing TV and digital ads which will show that responding to the census is easy, safe and important. They are part of a public education and outreach campaign that is designed to increase response to the census.
The Census Bureau will continue to conduct other surveys, like the American Community Survey, during 2020. If you are contacted about another survey, it is very important to participate. But you will still be required to respond to the 2020 Census even if you participate in another survey.
If you’re interested in how more than $650B in FY2015 funds were allocated based on Census data, go to:
For even more information on Census 2020 visit: 2020census.gov