Census

It’s time for us all to be counted in the 2020 Census! Every 10 years, the census records everyone living in this country. It’s written in the Constitution. And it comes in a questionnaire that counts everyone who lives at your address on April 1.

So, what is the census, exactly, and why should you participate? Click the topics below to learn more about the 2020 Census.



What is the census?

The census is a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every 10 years. Not only is the census required by the Constitution, but it’s critically important to communities because census data is used to determine everything from representation in Congress to allocation of federal and state funds. $675 billion will be distributed annually for schools, roads and other public services, all based on census information. In addition, the demographic data are used by businesses to determine, for example, where to build new supermarkets, and by emergency responders to locate injured people after natural disasters.


How will the census impact my community?

Information learned through the census determines how funds are distributed to states, counties and communities. This money, in turn, can be spent on everything from public schools to hospitals to public works. In addition, after each census, state officials will review and redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in Illinois to account for population shifts.


What’s new with the Census in 2020?

For the first time, the Internet will be the primary response option. While a paper form will still be available, individuals will be able to complete the 2020 Census form online, or by phone or mail.


How and when can I access the census form?

When it’s time to respond, most households will receive an invitation by mail. Depending on how likely your area is to respond online, you’ll receive either an invitation encouraging you to respond online or an invitation along with a paper questionnaire, as well as reminders to complete the census.

  • March 12-20: An invitation to respond to the 2020 Census
  • March 16-24: A reminder letter
    If you haven’t responded yet:
  • March 26-April 3: A reminder postcard
  • April 8-16: A reminder letter and paper questionnaire
  • April 20-27: A final reminder postcard before the U.S. Census Bureau follows up in person

What questions does the census ask?

The census asks how many people are in your household and whether the home is owned or rented. You’ll be asked to count the number of people, including babies and people who may not have a permanent address, who are living or staying in your home. You’ll be asked to answer questions about age, race or ethnic identity, and relationships of people living at your address to you.


How long will it take to fill out? 

The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete.


Can I refuse to answer a question?

You can skip questions, submit an incomplete census form and still be included in the head count. Returning a partially filled-out questionnaire may result in a follow-up phone call or visit from a census worker.


What if I don’t respond at all?

Everyone living in the United States is required to be counted as part of the Census, and because the data is so important, the Census Bureau will send you a reminder letter if you haven’t responded by April 2020. If you do not respond then, you’ll receive a paper questionnaire you can mail back. If you don’t respond to the paper questionnaire, you’ll receive a visit from a census worker.


Will I be asked about my citizenship or immigration status?

No. The 2020 Census will not include a question about citizenship. It is important that you complete the census regardless of your immigration status. Everyone deserves to be counted, and your information will be kept confidential.


How can I respond to the census?

You can respond to the census online, by phone or on a paper questionnaire. The online and phone questionnaire will be available in 13 languages. You can still complete a paper form, but these forms will only be available in English and bilingual English-Spanish.


How does the online option work?

Almost all households will receive an invitation letter in the mail with instructions for responding to the census online. The invitation will include a unique identification code called a Census ID or User ID. The online form will be optimized to allow people to respond on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Using the Census ID helps the Bureau keep track of responses and prevent duplication. However, the Census ID is not required in order to respond online or by telephone. If you don’t have your Census ID handy, you can use your address instead.

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 Census Bureau will have a toll-free phone hotline in 13 languages for people who have questions or need help responding to the census. You can also complete the questionnaire over the phone when you call. 


What if I or someone staying with me has special living circumstances?

In general, you should count yourself where you live and sleep most of the time. If you are filling out the census for your home, pay special attention if you or someone living in your household is:

A newborn or child
When responding, count any children including newborns, who usually live and sleep at your home—even if they’re not your own. If they split time evenly between households, count them where they are on April 1, 2020.

A recent mover
Count yourself at your new address if you moved in by April 1, 2020.

A renter
Count yourself where you live. Don’t forget family and roommates.

A college student
If you don’t live in a dorm, count yourself at your off-campus address, even if you go to your parents’ home for school breaks. This includes international students.

A service member
If you don’t live in military barracks and you’re not deployed or stationed outside the United States, count yourself where you live and sleep most of the time, whether on or off base.

A resident of a group facility
U.S. Census Bureau employees will work with a representative from your building to ensure you are counted. This includes college dorms, military barracks, nursing homes, group homes, shelters, psychiatric facilities, and correctional facilities.

Learn more about who to count and special circumstances  »


Is my Census data safe?

Yes! Information you submit through the census form (either online, over the phone or on paper) is kept confidential by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is a nonpartisan government agency. The Census Bureau will never share information with immigration enforcement agencies or law enforcement agencies. 

Please also know that 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

Sources: Thank you to Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director at the Schaumburg Township District Library, for creating and sharing much of this content, compiled from information available at census.gov and 2020census.gov.


Learn more about the Census


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