Census 2020: Who Gets Counted and What it Means

by Kelvin Valdovinos

April 1, 2020

It is time for the U.S. Census Bureau to count everyone in efforts to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding. The data collected from the Census and American Community Survey will benefit local residents, businesses, real estate developers and planners, and help local governments understand the needs of their local communities.

Do you remember that knock on your door 10 years ago asking for you to fill out a survey? No…Don’t worry, neither do I. So why did those Census takers knock on your door and will they do so this year? For the first time since 1790, the first recorded population count, the Census will be available digitally. You can now fill out the form directly from your phone, online, or by mail. Starting the week of March 12th households began to receive invitations to respond to the 2020 Census. The Census mail you receive will contain detailed information and a Census ID, which you will need to complete the questionnaire online. If you are having trouble finding your ID or what to look for in your mail, click the link here, which will provide you with more detailed information. Once you receive a paper questionnaire (Census form) and would like to fill it out online, go to my2020census.gov to begin.

Language support will also be available to those whose preferred language is not English. The Census will provide 13 different languages (online or by phone): English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. In addition, the Census will also provide 59 non-English languages and additional Language Support.

Who Gets Counted?

Everyone living in the United States will be counted, including the five U.S. territories (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). If you are filling out the census for your home, this includes everyone who is or will be living within the residence as of April 1, 2020. Both related and unrelated individuals – who live and sleep at your home most of the time – should be counted.

Non-U.S. citizens are counted as well, and are required by law to be counted in the Census. The United States Census of 2020 addresses citizens of other countries as follows: citizens of foreign countries who are living in the United States during the 2020 Census, including members of the diplomatic community, should be counted at the U.S. residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If they are not sure about where they usually live, count them where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

For special circumstances – such as people who have multiple residences, students, U.S. Military Personnel, and many others – questions can be answered here.

Four Ways the Census Benefits Your Community

The Census benefits four different aspects of our lives:

  1. Residents use the Census to support initiatives, the quality of life, and consumer advocacy in their communities.
  2. Businesses use the information gathered from the Census to decide where to build factories, offices, and stores. This leads to the creation of new jobs within a community, positively impacting the area.
  3. Local government uses Census data to provide and establish strong public safety and the planning of new schools and hospitals. Real estate developers and city planners develop and plan new homes and neighborhoods, based on the data gathered from Census data. 
  4. Real estate developers and city planners develop and plan new homes and neighborhoods based on the data gathered from the Census. 
What Is the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey (ACS), unlike the Census, is an annual nationwide survey of more than 3.5 million households in the U.S. The ACS is part of the Census and the survey reports statistics on demographic, social, economic, and other characteristics about the U.S. population and housing. The ACS releases their one-year estimates in September for the previous year and five-year estimates in December for the previous five years. The Census and the American Community Survey are not identical as they serve different purposes. The Census counts the U.S. population, while the ACS demonstrates the way we live, our education, housing, jobs, and more.
Benefits of the ACS for Your Community


Similar to the Census, the ACS provides valuable data on geographic areas and their need for federal funding. Through the ACS, communities will know more about jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, whether people own or rent their home, and many other subjects. This vital information allows for planners, officials, and entrepreneurs to assess the past and plan for the future. By participating in the ACS survey if selected, you are doing your part in helping your local community. Your involvement will help improve emergency services, build bridges, inform businesses that are looking to expand and add jobs to new markets. View the top asked questions for the ACS here.

What Does Census and ACS Data Allow Us to Do?

Through the data collected by both the Census and the American Community Survey, economists and planners are able to better serve their local areas. Billions of dollars flow to more than 100 programs such as: Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. These Census programs deliver valuable statistical information for planners, officials, economic developers, businesses, and others to seek such federal funding. The Census and American Community Survey are helpful data tools for the present, and vital in helping shape the foreseeable future of your local communities.

For more information and to fill out the Census for your household, visit the 2020 Census site:
Ways to respond to the Census: https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html
Mycensus.gov: https://my2020census.gov/
Language support: https://2020census.gov/en/languages.html

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