What is the Census?

What is the Census?  Why is it important?

The U.S. Constitution requires a count every 10 years of every person living
in the United States.

Census results determine how the federal government allocates more than
$800 billion
each year for services that communities rely on, like Head
Start, food assistance, child care subsides, affordable housing,
transportation, healthcare access, and more.

Census data also determines the allocation of congressional districts and
redistricting boundaries for every level of government; helps schools,
transportation and healthcare industries plan for the future; and supports
business decisions on economic investment, expansions and where to
locate jobs.

Historically, certain groups of people have been disproportionately
undercounted in the census, including young children, people of color and
recent immigrants, and people experiencing homelessness.

If the census misses people, undercounted communities won’t get fair
funding for critical programs, and officials won’t have the reliable
information they need to make decisions.


Beginning on March 12, 2020, the Census Bureau will mail every household in the United
States an invitation to respond to the census, including a new option to respond online.

  • In areas without reliable mail delivery or traditional mailing addresses, Census Bureau staff will visit households in person instead.
  • The Census Bureau will use other methods to count people in group living situations, such as college dorms and military bases, and people experiencing homelessness.

April 1 is known as “Census Day,” although households can respond before or after that
date. Households will receive several mailings from the Census Bureau in March and April

Beginning in May 2020, Census Bureau staff will visit households that have not yet
responded to collect their responses in person.



Households can respond to the census online, by phone, or on a paper questionnaire.

  • The online and phone questionnaire will be available in 13 languages.
  • The online form will be optimized to allow people to respond on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  • The online form is secure, and responses will be encrypted.
  • The Census Bureau will send paper questionnaires to households that have not responded after several reminders, and will follow up in person if needed.
  • The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete.
  • 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.
  • Census responses are confidential. U.S. law strictly prohibits the Census Bureau fromsharing personal census responses with anyone—including law enforcement, courts, or any other government agency.