About the 2020 Census

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the Federal Government’s Department of Commerce, conducts a count of every person in the United States and its territories. This count, informally called “the census” is the only time during the decade that every person in the U.S. is counted. Census Day is always April 1 in the year ending with 0.

By April 1, 2020, all households will receive notification about the upcoming census with an invitation to respond. There are three ways to respond to the 2020 Census - by phone, by mail, or online. You can complete this form to receive an email reminder to submit the census form for your household by April 1, 2020. Please refer to this fact sheet for more information about how the Census Bureau will invite everyone to respond. The Spanish language version of the fact sheet can be found here.

This timeline outlines some key dates regarding the U.S. Census Bureau’s data collection and outreach processes.

Why is the Census important? Why should I participate?

The population data collected and released by the U.S. Census Bureau are used to determine the number of seats each state will have in Congress. The process of determining each state’s share of the 435 Congressional seats is called reapportionment. The data are also needed to determine the number of people residing in each state legislative and local electoral district. If the districts are unequally populated, the district boundaries are adjusted in a process called ‘Redistricting’. Because the census is the only time that every person residing in the U.S. is counted on the same day, the Census’s population figures are the most accurate dataset available to equalize population throughout electoral districts. More information about the 2021 Statewide Redistricting in California can be found here.

It is important to participate in the census to ensure each state receives its fair share of seats in Congress. It is also important because population figures reported by the Census Bureau are used to determine federal funding for communities throughout the U.S. Federal support for states includes funding for infrastructure, emergency response agencies, school lunch programs, and more. The data are also used to enforce policies against discrimination. For more information on how census data are used to serve communities, please see this page from the U.S. Census Bureau.

What information does the U.S. Census Bureau collect and what happens with my personal information?

The census form is brief and only collects basic information about the make-up of each household in the United States. The census form should be filled out by one person per household so that no one is missed. The questions on the form ask for the number of people in a household, whether they rent or own their residence, their relationship to each other, and the age, assigned sex, and their race and ethnicity. This article explains what questions are on the census form and how the responses to each question are used, and this article explains whom to include as a part of your household on your census form. You should include everyone in your household on your census form no matter their age or residency status! The census is about counting everyone!

The data collected by the Census Bureau will always be kept confidential and your responses can never be used against you in any way. Legally bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot legally share any of your personal information with anyone - not with other government agencies, law enforcement, or the President. Title 13 ensures that private information can never be published or used for anything other than to produce statistics, and U.S. Census Bureau employees must take an oath to uphold data privacy for the rest of their lives.

The Census Bureau produces statistics that combine household information in a way that would make it impossible for even the most advanced computer program to determine household or individual responses to the census. To find out more about how the U.S. Census Bureau protects your privacy, see this fact sheet (English version), also available in Spanish.

The Census and California

To assist the U.S. Census Bureau in conducting a complete count of all Californians, the State has established the California Census Office, which coordinates Census efforts throughout the State and focuses outreach efforts on traditionally hard-to-count populations. Some examples of hard-to-count populations in California include those living in homes without broadband internet access, foreign-born residents, renters, those living in non-family households, and those living near or below the poverty line.

The California Census Office is hosting a series of informational webinars that present issues California is facing in attempting to ensure a complete and accurate count in the U.S. Census. More information about upcoming webinars and materials presented in previous webinars are available here

To assist with 2020 Census outreach, the California Complete Count Committee was formed. The Complete Count Committee is an advisory panel that strategizes and recommends the most effective ways for the California Complete Count Office to conduct Census outreach throughout California, specifically focussing on hard to count populations. The Committee’s work is focused on identifying culturally competent outreach strategies and partnering with local and Tribal governments and grassroots organizations to implement these strategies. Anyone can attend the Complete Count Committee meetings over the phone or online - to learn more about upcoming meetings, click the “Committee Meetings” menu on this page. To receive email updates about the California Complete Count Committee, fill out the form on the bottom of this page.

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