As constitutionally mandated, America counts every resident every decade. The 2020 U.S. census will shape representation, with Oregon likely gaining a congressional seat. Population data from the census will guide federal funding. Misty Slater, U.S. Census Bureau media specialist, answered questions to help readers understand how they can participate in the census.
Why should I care about the census?
It’s how federal funding trickles all the way down, from the federal, state and local governments. Nationally, it’s over $675 billion. It will affect schools, health care, roads and infrastructure. All those things are important to all of us. It’s a civic duty to fill out your census form to help your community get the money it deserves. There are so many different facets that this money goes into. It’s based on population counts. For the next 10 years, this count is going to affect the local community. If communities underrespond, they’re not going to get as much money as they’re entitled to. It’s one of those things that benefits everybody. We’re all in the same boat when it comes to the census.
What does the census do to ensure my community is accurately counted?
We found out from 2010 that children under 5 were the most undercounted demographic. One of our main pushes this time around was to really engage with schools. We have the Statistics in Schools program that helps teach how census data is used in all different subjects and grades. It helps the children know that this is coming up, how it is important and how it affects the community. We have partnership specialists on the ground in every state that go out and make partners with daycare centers, pediatricians, these other conduits into the 0-5 age group, to help make their parents aware that these children do need to be counted. If you don’t count them, then what’s going to happen in the next 10 years? These school districts aren’t going to be able to plan for how many children might be coming in in five years.
How much time will filling out the census take?
It’s really easy. The census is nine questions for the main respondent, and three more for each additional person. It takes a few minutes. Of course, it depends on how big your family is. If you have 10 children, it’s going to take you longer because you’re going to have to fill out some questions for each of those kids.
When will I get census information?
First invitations to respond were sent out in March. Reminder letters are sent starting April 8.
Who actually fills out the census?
One person responds for the entire household. The person that responds needs to be 15 or older.
Will COVID-19 impact the census?
To protect the health and safety of the American public and employees, the Census Bureau has paused field operations and will continue to evaluate all 2020 census operations. In late May, census takers around the nation will begin visiting households that have not yet responded to the 2020 census to help complete the count. As we continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.
Will the mailed forms be addressed to me?
None of the mailers will have people’s names on them. They will say “Resident.” Please don’t throw it in the garbage.
What will I get in the mail?
We have what is called “internet first” and “internet choice.” Internet first will get postcards to self-respond online. Internet choice is to people who may have a worse internet connection. When they get their mailing, they’ll get a paper questionnaire as well, so they have the option to send the paper form in or, if they’re somewhere where they have good Wi-Fi or connectivity, they’ll be able to respond online.
What if I have a P.O. box?
The census does not mail to P.O. boxes, only physical addresses.
How will I respond?
A census taker will go out to the house. They will drop off the invitation to respond and the paper questionnaire. Individuals with P.O. boxes will get the paper questionnaire the same time they get the invitation to respond online. We know people don’t want people coming to their doors. It’s less than 10 minutes of time so respondents can avoid having someone come and knock on their door come May.
If a census taker is dropping forms off at my door, what will that look like? Do they just drop it like a USPS package?
They drop it off at the door. We want people to know that people will be in the area. But it’s not like they’re going there to bother them. They’re just there to drop off the questionnaire.
Do I have to respond with pen and paper?
The census really went above and beyond trying to make sure they have every pathway to reach everybody. You can respond by phone at 844-467-2020. You can respond online, at my2020census.gov. Or you can go to the 2020census.gov website, which has a button where you can respond. The online questionnaire can be done from people’s phones.
If it is possible to fill out the census online or by phone, how will the census know it is actually me?
The first mailing going out will be an invitation to respond, with a unique identifier attached to the address, not the person. Online respondents can type that code in. No other double checking has to be done by the respondent to ensure that is the correct address. Respondents can respond online without that code. A couple double-checks verify that it is a real address.
Can anyone help me with the census?
We will have mobile questionnaire assistance set-up events. People can respond at those events. In 2010, we had these same things set up. The census wasn’t online at the time, so respondents could fill out the paper questionnaire, but the respondent had to turn around and mail it back in. This time, our census employees will have tablets that people can respond on, or employees will help people on the respondent’s device.
What is the thing you most wish everyone knew?
The 2020 census is easy, important and secure. The Census Bureau goes above and beyond to try to make sure to cover every facet of making it as easy as possible for people to respond.
Respond to the 2020 census now, online at my2020census.com.
For more information or to look through previous census population data visit census.gov.