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Census 2020

A guide to resources for the 2020 Census


2020 Census Factsheets

Why Do We Need the Census?

The goal of the census is to count every person living in the United States on April 1, 2020 and to gather some information about those people. The data we get from the Census is very powerful.

  • 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. This includes everything from housing to highways to healthcare to higher education. [Source]
  • Population counts help the government to redistrict state legislative districts. Illinois will likely lose a seat in the House of Representatives this census, and could lose two if we are undercounted. [Source]
  • The census helps state and local government forecast needs like transportation, education, and housing. It can help our leaders plan and implement services for our communities [Source]
  • Businesses use census data to make decisions about business locations, marketing strategies, and how many people to hire. [Source]

What's Different About the 2020 Census?

Online Self-Response

For the first time ever, the Census Bureau is promoting the Online Self-Response option as the preferred method of completing the Census. Respondents will recieve an ID code in the mail to enter when completing the online form. Respondents can also use their address instead of the ID code. The online questionnaire will be available in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese [Simplified], English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese).

The online option will make responding easier for some, as they can just enter the information at their convenience. However, many still do not have reliable internet access and/or the necessary skills to respond to the form online. Libraries, the Census Bureau, and other organizations are working together to find solutions to those problems.

The census can also be completed on paper or over the telephone.

Same-sex Marriage Option

For the first time, the 2020 Census will include options which indicate a same-sex relationship with another household member. This change is expected to improve national statistics on same-sex couples. 


What About Confidentiality?

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.

Safety and Security

Be aware that there are scams that attempt to extract private information from individuals.

The Census Bureau will never ask you for:

  • your Social Security number
  • your bank or credit card numbers
  • any money or payments

The Citizenship Question

The 2020 Census will not include questions about citizenship. The question of whether or not citizenship information will be collected has been hotly contested both in popular culture and in the courts. Read the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter here.

Although the 2020 Census will not ask about citizenship, that does not mean that other Census Bureau surveys and questionnaires will not ask this question.

The American Community Survey, which is conducted every year by the Census Bureau, includes questions about citizenship, as well as other in-depth questions. Think of this as a supplement to the Census - it gathers information on things like housing, internet access, commutes, even whether you have plumbing. The data gathered is used, in part, to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The Current Population Survey is conducted by the Census Bureau along with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This survey includes questions about citizenship, as well as business ownership, disability, work history, and other matters that can impact work. This survey is conducted over the phone. It is used to build an accurate portrait of the United States workforce and labor supply and demand.