CHICAGO (CBS) — Here are the answers to 12 common questions about the 2020 U.S. Census.
What Does The Census Do?
The U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of Department of Commerce, conducts a survey every 10 years to count everyone living in the United States, regardless of their race or citizenship status.
This population data determines what portion of the more than $700 billion dollars in federal funding each states receives annually and how many congressional seats each gets.
When Does The Census Begin?
Census Day is April 1, 2020, but you will start receiving invitations to respond in mid-March. Households that do not respond will receive follow-up notices throughout April and census workers conduct in-person visits early May.
Whom Should You Include In Your Count?
You should count everyone who lives in your home, including people who stay there most of the time and who have no other residence.
This includes all children who live with you, such as foster children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the children of friends. You are also required to record newborn babies – even if they are still in the hospital as of April 1, 2020.
Boarding school students and college students who live at home should be counted at their parent or guardian’s address. College students who live apart from their guardians most of the time should count themselves at their on- or off-campus residence. Foreign students attending college in the United States should be counted at the on or off-campus residence as well. American college students attending school abroad are not included in the census.
People living in shelters should be counted at these locations. Those incarcerated in prisons or correctional facilities should also be counted there. People in health care facilities, however, should register themselves at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time, not at the facility.
You can view more guidelines about who to include here.
How do you complete the survey?
This year’s census will be the first to go digital, allowing people to complete it on their computers, phones, and tablets.
Hard copies of the survey will be mailed to residents as well.
You can also call the toll free number, 1-800-354-7271, to complete the survey.
If you do not voluntarily complete the survey by May, a Census Bureau worker will visit you in person. A worker will visit up to six different times to ensure you take the survey. If they are unable to locate you they may inquire with you neighbors, or review state or local records, such as tax forms, to find out who lives in your home.
What are the questions?
The questionnaire will ask how many people are living in the household, what type of property it is and each resident’s name, gender, age, and race.
The 2020 questions have not been finalized yet, but the 2010 census asked these questions. You can also view a sample questionnaire below.
Are your answers private and safe?
The Census Bureau collects data for statistical purposes only. Any information submitted will remain confidential and Title 13 of the U.S. Code ensures it is never published.
As this is the first census to go digital, additional precautions will be taken to guarantee privacy.
“We encrypt your information, limit access, and actively monitor our systems to make sure your information stays secure,” the Deputy Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Ron Jarmin, said.
Furthermore, the 2020 Census will not ask about citizenship status. Law enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not have access to it.
Census workers who have access to your personal information must legally protect confidentiality and are subject to fines and up to five years in federal prison for wrongful disclosure of information.
How can you verify a census worker is legitimate?
If you are contacted by a Census Bureau worker in May 2020, and you want to verify the visit is legitimate, you can visit the Regional Census Center’s website and call to confirm that the person at your door is a Census Bureau employee.
A legitimate worker will never ask you to provide your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, or ask for money.
How accurate is the census?
The Census Bureau has its own evaluation programs to determine the survey’s accuracy, Jarmin said.
“We are working on strategies to make sure the count of our population is as complete as possible for the 2020 Census,” he said. “There is no single cause for an undercount, so there is no single solution.”
Historically, certain groups have been undercounted, he further said. These primarily includes renters, non-English speakers, children, and the low-income population.
“The more complex the household is, the greater the risk that a person in that household won’t be included in the census questionnaire,” Jarmin said.
What languages can you take the survey in?
The survey will be offered in 13 languages online and by phone. This list includes: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. The census surveys delivered via mail will only be available in English and Spanish.
What percentage of people are expected to take the survey voluntarily?
The Census Bureau expects the only 60.5 percent of people to voluntarily complete the survey in 2020 – a three percent decrease from the 2010 response rate.
“We have operations in place, such a non-response follow-up and access to third party data that allows us to reach a full count,” Jarmin said.
How much does the census cost?
To reduce follow up costs, the census has “modernized their methodology,” Jarmin said.
Yet, in 2010, the census cost $12.1 billion. The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, is asking for $15.6 billion to collect accurate data for the 2020 survey.
The census is spending $500 million in marketing and advertising alone – up from $376 million in 2010. The Bureau has also hired over 1,500 partnership specialists to reach the hard-to-count populations, Jarmin said.
Is the Census Bureau hiring?
They are hiring “census takers” – and some of these jobs pay nearly $30 an hour. The Bureau bases that generous hourly rate on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Jarmin said.
To become a census taker, you must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen with a valid Social Security number, and have a valid email address. Many positions will also require a valid driver’s license and a vehicle – unless public transportation is readily available. You can submit an application here.