Overview of the U.S. Census 2020

This year, the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct its 10-year count of residents of the United States. Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, Census 2020 is more than just a population count. It generates data that determines congressional representation, shapes federal and state legislative districts, determines funding levels for a wide variety of programs and initiatives, and helps businesses and governments make important decisions.

Why It Matters

The 2020 Census will determine congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade. That’s why it’s important that residents take the time to fill out the survey, indicating where they are living as of April 1, 2020.

The results of this once-a-decade count determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. They are also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

During the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children. Students in college towns use critical local resources, such as roads, which depend upon federal funding that’s determined by the census.

The data will be used to determine how more than $675 billion is spent to support states, counties and communities. It’s a valuable part of how federal funding is allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

The 2020 Census Process

By April 1, 2020, every home in the country will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census, with three options for responding — online, by phone or by mail. Because getting a complete and accurate census count is critically important, you are required by law to respond.

The Census Bureau is also required by law to protect your answers, which are only used to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information and respondents are kept anonymous. A sample census questionnaire is available on the census website. There is no question about citizenship, political affiliation, banking information, or social security number. The answers are completely confidential under federal law.

Completing the Census questionnaire is easy and for the first time this year, most people can respond online. The survey asks for demographic information, such as race, age and gender, and how the members of a household are related to each other.

Avoid fraud. The Census Bureau will never ask for your full Social Security number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, your bank or credit card account numbers or your mother’s maiden name.

Who to Count

The 2020 Census will count everyone living in the United States and five U.S. territories. Students make up one of a number of special populations that pose some challenges in determining where they should be counted.

  • College students who are living at home should be counted at their home address.
  • College students who live away from home should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time, even if they are at home on April 1, 2020. Please visit Counting People in Group Living Arrangements for more information.
  • U.S. college students who are living and attending college outside the United States are not counted in the census.
  • Foreign 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.
  • Boarding school students below the college level should be counted at the home of their parents or guardians.