What is the 2020 Census?

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.

The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. 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). Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail.

Why We Conduct This Count

The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

It’s also in the Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, mandates that the country conduct a count of its population once every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.

Counting Everyone

Participating in the census is required by law, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. A COMPLETE AND ACCURATE COUNT IS CRITICAL FOR YOU AND YOUR COMMUNITY, BECAUSE THE RESULTS OF THE 2020 CENSUS WILL AFFECT COMMUNITY FUNDING, CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATION, AND MORE.

Important Dates

In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.

Census

Overall Timeline

Counting every person living in the United States is a massive undertaking, and efforts begin years in advance. Here’s a look at some of the key dates along the way:

2020

January 21: The U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially begins in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.

March 12 – 20: Households will begin receivingofficial Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.  

March 30 – April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.

April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.

May – July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

2021

March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Here are some of the efforts completed in 2019:

January – September: The Census Bureau opened more than 200 area census offices across the country. These offices support and manage the census takers who work all over the country to conduct the census.

August – October: Census takers visited areas that have experienced a lot of change and growth to ensure that the Census Bureau’s address list is up to date. This process is called address canvassing, and it helps to ensure that everyone receives an invitation to participate in the census.

Census Day 2020

April 1 is Census Day, a key reference date for the 2020 Census. When completing the census, you will include everyone living in your home on April 1, 2020. Census Day will be celebrated with events across the country.

Census Takers in Your Neighborhood

You may notice census takers in your neighborhood this year.

This is a normal part of conducting the census. Your information is such an important part of the 2020 Census, that if you haven’t responded on your own, we send census takers to help make sure you are counted.

The 2020 Census isn’t the only activity the Census Bureau has this year. So you may see Census Bureau employees out collecting responses for other surveys, such as the American Community Survey.

How Can You Verify That Someone Is a Census Worker?

Census takers will visit homes in April to conduct quality check interviews, and then in mid-May to help collect responses.

If someone visits your home to collect information for the 2020 Census, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. Census workers may also carry Census Bureau bags and other equipment with the Census Bureau logo.

If you still have questions about their identity, you can contact your Regional Census Center to speak with a Census Bureau representative.

Why Are Census Workers Out in Communities?

Census takers play a critical role in the 2020 Census.

In May, they will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the census to help ensure everyone is counted. These census takers are there to help, and they are legally bound to protect your information.

But that’s not the only role they play. You might see census workers in your neighborhood this spring and summer for a few different reasons:

  • They are dropping off census materials.
  • They are conducting quality checks related to the census.
  • They are collecting responses for other ongoing Census Bureau surveys, such as the American Community Survey. (Please note: If you’re invited to participate in one of these other surveys, you’re still required to answer the 2020 Census.)

In 2019, census workers helped lay the groundwork for the 2020 Census by verifying addresses in neighborhoods across the country. These workers are called address canvassers, and they help ensure a complete and accurate count by noting where houses, apartments, shelters, and other residences are located. 

Be Proactive

Starting in mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. The best way to avoid a visit from a census taker is to fill out the 2020 Census questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail as soon as you receive your invitation to participate.

Conducting the Count

The 2020 Census is a massive undertaking. It requires counting a diverse and growing population in the United States and the five U.S. territories. To do this, the U.S. Census Bureau must:

Make an accurate list of every residence in the U.S. and five U.S. territories—including houses, apartments, dormitories, military barracks, and more.

Get a member of every residence to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail in March and April of 2020.

Follow up in person with homes that have not responded.

Collecting Responses

There are three ways that the Census Bureau will initially collect responses from people for the 2020 Census: online, by phone, and by mail.

By April 1, 2020, you will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home.

Starting in May 2020, the Census Bureau will begin following up in person with homes that have not responded to the census.

Counting Everyone in the Right Place

To ensure a complete and accurate count, the Census Bureau counts people at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time, with a few exceptions. People who do not have a usual residence should be counted where they are on Census Day (April 1, 2020).

The Census Bureau has special processes in place to ensure that everyone in the 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories is counted.

Who Is Required To Respond?

Everyone living in the 50 states, 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) is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Why It’s Required

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.

Why is the census so important? The results are used to determine how much funding local communities receive for key public services and how many seats each state gets in Congress. State and local officials also use census counts to draw boundaries for congressional, state legislative, and school districts.

And while you are required by law to participate, the Census Bureau is also required by law to protect your answers. Your responses are used only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information.

Special Living Situations

People in some special living situations may have questions about how to respond. This includes:

  • Students.
  • Service members.
  • People in correctional facilities.
  • People who move on Census Day (April 1, 2020).
  • People who do not have fixed addresses.

Visit Who To Count at Census.gov for information on how people in these groups will be counted.

Participation in Other Census Surveys

The Census Bureau will continue to conduct other surveys, like the American Community Survey, during 2020. If you are contacted about another survey, it is very important to participate. But you will still be required to respond to the 2020 Census even if you participate in another survey.

Spread the Word

The 2020 Census is more than a population count. It’s an opportunity to shape the future of your community. Through your social media channels, your voice can make a difference.

Set the Record Straight

An accurate count is critical to communities across the country. Don’t let misinformation keep your friends and family members from responding.

One of the best ways you can show your support for the 2020 Census is by making sure you know the facts. Review basic facts about the 2020 Census and how the Census Bureau protects your data—and then share these facts with others.

If you have questions about something you’ve heard about the census, visit Fighting 2020 Census Rumors to get the most accurate information. You can also report rumors and misinformation at rumors@census.gov.