Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Count on us; Census to start soon

It's time to be counted.

The 2020 Census actually began in January in rural villages of Alaska because harsh weather conditions forced everyone to be homebound. 

Now the rest of the nation gets to start taking part in the once-a-decade head count, mandated by the US Constitution. 

The 2010 Census counted about 18 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asian Americans is the fastest growing demographic, exceeding the Latino growth rate. Ten years later, it expected that  the tally of Asian Americans will exceed 22 million.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.


The Census Bureau will begin sending out notices this week (Thursday, March 12) to 95% of the nation's households, informing people that they can start participating in the 2020 census.

The mailings will be staggered, going out from March 12 to 20 to avoid overwhelming the self-response website and a telephone helpline. 

The 2020 count will be the first one to allow all U.S. households to respond online. Paper forms will still be available, and, for the first time, you can call 1-800 numbers to give responses over the phone.

About 80% of households receiving the initial mailings will be encouraged to answer the questions online, and around 20% of households will get a paper questionnaire that can be mailed back because they live in neighborhoods with low internet access or large numbers of seniors.

Areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with their invitation. The invitation will also include information about how to respond online or by phone.

The online census forms are offered in five Asian languages, and the Census Bureau is publishing informational guides in about two dozen Asian languages.


Census workers will make home visits to remote areas — including rural Alaska, parts of northern Maine and some American Indian reservations — to gather census information in person. Households in the rest of the U.S. that do not respond themselves by early April may start receiving visits from door knockers trained to conduct census interviews and collect responses using smartphones.

For less than 5% of households, in areas that have been hit by natural disaster or places that use only PO boxes, a census taker will drop off the initial notices in person. Census takers will eventually go home to home, interviewing residents of households that have not responded.

If you haven't responded April 8-16, you'll receive a notice and a paper questionnaire.

If you still haven't responded by April 20-27, households will receive a final notice and an in-person visit by a Census worker.


Notable changes for 2020 include new write-in areas under the race question for the non-Hispanic origins of those who identify as white and/or black ("German" and "Jamaican" are among the provided examples). There are also new household relationship categories that allow couples living together to identify their relationships as either "same-sex" or "opposite-sex."

The Census asks about a person’s race to create statistics about race and to present other statistics by race groups. In 2010, for example, the statistics illustrated the nation’s changing racial diversity, as well as the size, growth, and geographic distribution of various racial population groups. In addition, the data collected in these questions is needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with the anti-discrimination provisions of laws such as the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. 

Responding to the race question is easy. The 2020 Census follows the most recent race and ethnicity standards for the federal government set by the Office of Management and Budget in 1997. When you complete your census form, select one or more boxes for the race(s) you identify with. You can also print your origins in the write-in space, if you choose.


The controversial question about citizenship will not be asked. In July, federal courts permanently blocked the Trump administration from adding to the 2020 census the question, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" 

The Census Bureau, however, continues to include a citizenship question on other forms it asks some US households to complete, including the American Community Survey; census forms for American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands; and the 2019 Census Test, which is collecting responses through Aug. 15.


The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the US 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.

Being responsible stewards of your data is not only required by law, it is embedded in Census Bureau culture. Strict policies and statistical safeguards help protect the confidentiality of your information.

That being said, beware of scams.
During the 2020 Census, 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.
If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these things, it's a scam, and you should not cooperate. For more information, visit Avoiding Fraud and Scams.


There are several ways that you can contact the U.S. Census Bureau for support.

For language support: The 2020 Census can be completed by phone in the following languages. Phone lines are open every day from 7am to 2am Eastern Time.
English: 844-330-2020Spanish: 844-468-2020Chinese (Mandarin): 844-391-2020Chinese (Cantonese): 844-398-2020Vietnamese: 844-461-2020Korean: 844-392-2020Russian: 844-417-2020Arabic: 844-416-2020Tagalog: 844-478-2020Japanese: 844-460-2020
For information on services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing: Call the TDD number at 800-467-2020.

For general questions: Visit the US Census' Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

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