Census 2020 FAQs
2020 Census Overview
Every 10 years, the United States counts everyone living in the country. The 2020 Census will influence community funding and congressional representation. Information collected in the census will inform the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal funds for states and communities each year. This includes money for things like federal Pell grants; adult education grants; agriculture, science and engineering education; student wellness programs; the Medical Assistance Program; and community mental health services. Responding is safe. Personal information is kept confidential by law, and responses can only be used 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the census?
The 2020 Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail.
Why is the census so important? How is census data used?
Responding to the census helps communities get the funding they need and helps businesses make data-driven decisions that grow the economy. Census data impact our daily lives, informing important decisions about funding for services and infrastructure in our community, including health care, senior centers, jobs, political representation, roads, schools, and businesses. More than $675 billion in federal funding flows back to states and local communities each year based on census data.
Is responding to the 2020 Census required?
Yes. Getting a complete and accurate census count is critically important. That’s why your response is required by law. If you do not respond, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up in person to collect your response.
What if I have privacy concerns?
While you are required by law to participate, the U.S. Census Bureau is also required by law to protect your answers. Your responses are used only to produce statistics. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. 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. 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.
How can I participate in the census?
By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will have three options for responding: Online, by phone or by mail. In mid-March, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census. If you live in university housing, census takers will work with student housing officials to ensure that you are counted. You may be asked to complete an individual census form.
I’m a student. Why should I be counted in Ithaca?
For census purposes, university students are considered residents of the place where they live while attending school. Students are not counted at their parents’ addresses. It is vital that the Census Bureau has an accurate and complete count of all university students. Many federal laws require the use of census data to distribute funding, monitor important programs, and enforce laws against discrimination. States, cities, counties, and tribal governments use census data to plan future programs, services, and development.
I live in a residence hall and/or have a university housing contract. How do I participate?
If you live in on-campus student housing or in another student housing facility that is owned, leased or managed by the university, census takers will work with student housing officials to ensure that you are counted. You may be asked to complete an individual census form.
I live off-campus and do not have a university housing contract. How do I participate?
If you live in off-campus housing that is not owned or managed by your college or university, make sure you and your roommates submit only one response that includes everyone who lives there. Beginning in mid-March 2020, you can respond to the census online, by phone or by mail. Even if you spend time somewhere else during school breaks, you should be counted at your off-campus address.
I am an international student/employee or a non-citizen. Should I be counted in the census?
The 2020 Census counts everyone living in the country, including non-citizens. If you are an international student, the same rules apply both on and off campus. International students living and attending college in the United States should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.
Citizens of foreign countries who are living in the United States, including faculty and visiting scholars, should be counted at the U.S. residence where they live and sleep most of the time.
What questions WILL NOT be asked by the Census Bureau?
The census will never ask for Social Security numbers, bank or credit card numbers, money or donations, or anything related to political parties. 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.
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.