Census 101: FAQ

We want to make sure you have answers to all of your questions about the 2020 Census.

When can I complete the census?

Households began receiving invitations to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12-20. There are additional reminders to respond that will be mailed throughout the month. Once you receive your invitation, you can respond online, by phone, or by mail. If a household does not respond to the 2020 Census, a census taker will follow up in person to collect their response. This will occur between May-July.

Why does the census ask about April 1?

Everyone is asked about their information as of the same day, April 1, 2020.

What questions does the 2020 Census ask?

The 2020 Census asks how many people are living or staying at each address. For each person, we ask about name, sex, age, date of birth, relationship, Hispanic origin, and race. We also will ask whether the housing unit, such as the house, apartment, or mobile home, is owned or rented, and for contact information in case additional information is needed.

Learn more about the questions asked.

How are the American Community Survey (ACS) and 2020 Census different?

The 2020 Census counts each person in the U.S., where they live on April 1. The decennial census happens every ten years ending in zero.

Unlike the decennial census, the American Community Survey is an ongoing survey that only collects information from selected addresses. The American Community Survey asks questions that are not on the census. This includes education, employment, and transportation, and provides communities with up-to-date data every year.

Should I complete both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey?

Yes. Please respond to both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey. For help with the American Community Survey, call 800-354-7271 or visit https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs.

How is census data used?

By law, the U.S. Census Bureau can use your responses only to produce statistics. 2020 Census results will help in directing billions of dollars in federal funds to communities for schools, roads, and other public services. Results from the 2020 Census will also help to determine the number of seats that each state has in Congress.

Learn more about why your answers matter.

What happens to my responses?

We take our responsibility to protect your information very seriously. The Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015 ensures that your data is protected from cybersecurity risks. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify you or your household. By law, the Census Bureau can use your responses only to produce statistics. If you respond online, all web data submissions are encrypted in order to protect your privacy. If you respond using a paper questionnaire, your completed questionnaire will be destroyed after processing.

Will my information be disclosed to other agencies?

No. Your information is completely confidential and protected by law and cannot be shared with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration officials. Federal law (U.S. Code Title 13, Section 9) protects your privacy and keeps your answers safe and secure. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau can use your responses only to produce statistics.

Will the census form be available in different languages?

Yes. You can respond online in English and in 12 additional languages: Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.The online questionnaire conforms with the latest web accessibility guidelines. There is also a video in American Sign Language to guide you through responding online. We’ll also make help available by phone in those same languages.You can respond by phone in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. The paper form can be completed in English or Spanish.

How do I know whether someone works for the U.S. Census Bureau?

All Census Bureau workers carry official government badges and should identify themselves immediately when they come to your home. There is useful information on our website to help respondents better understand what census takers ask and don't ask for when conducting their work. You can also call your local regional office for verification. Find regional offices' phone numbers on our Regional Census Center page.

Is the census legal?

Yes. Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires that this population and housing count occur every 10 years. We are conducting the 2020 Census under the authority of U.S. Code Title 13, sections 141, 193, and 221. This collection of information has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

Why did I see an ad for the 2020 Census?

To increase awareness and educate the public about the importance of the census, the Census Bureau is advertising across television, radio, print, digital, and other channels. This advertising is used to encourage people to respond to the 2020 Census in a cost-effective way. You can find more information about the Census Bureau’s media plan on News and Events.

What is apportionment?

Apportionment is the process of determining the number of representatives each state has in Congress. Each state's representation in the U. S. House of Representatives is based on the decennial census. The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) established that the apportionment of the House of Representatives would be determined using a national census once every 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau must deliver the 2020 Census apportionment population counts for each state to the President by December 31, 2020.

How is my online response protected?

The Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. All online responses are encrypted to protect your privacy. To learn more, please visit How the Census Bureau Protects Your Data.

Should non-U.S. citizens respond to the 2020 Census?

Yes. Everyone living in the United States and its five territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) is required by law to be counted in the census—whether they are citizens or not.

Citizens of foreign countries who are living in the United States during the 2020 Census, including members of the diplomatic community, should be counted at the U.S. residence where they live and sleep most of time. If they are not sure about where they usually live, count them where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

Citizens of foreign countries who are temporarily visiting the United States on vacation or business on April 1, 2020, should not be counted.

What if I know this person's race but not their origin?

When answering "What is this person's race?", you are asked to select one or more boxes and enter detailed origins in the fields below each checkbox.

If you check a box, but leave the origin fields blank, a message will appear at the top of the screen and the blank field will be highlighted in red.

If you do not know this person's origin, click next again to continue completing your response.