What is the Census?

The Census is a brief survey the Census Bureau sends to every household in the country every 10 years.  It is required by the Constitution to count every living person in the United States, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

The 2020 Census has started! On January 20, 2020, Census questionnaires were delivered to some households in Alaska; most households will receive their 2020 Census questionnaire in March. Many people will have the option to respond online for the first time ever.

Why does it matter?

The Census is a fundamental pillar of our democracy and our constitutional structure, governing the allocation of congressional seats and Electoral College votes.

Census data informs our nation’s most important decisions, including how the federal government spends 900 billion dollars on critical services like building roads, providing for health insurance and supporting education. 

Participation in the Census by everybody makes for a healthier democracy.  If people are not counted, their communities will receive less representation in government and fewer resources.

Is Census data private?

Yes. The Census Bureau is subject to some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law.  Private information collected through any survey conducted by the Census Bureau can never be published. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or their address. Personal information collected through the Census also cannot be disclosed to any person, organization, or government body, including other departments of the federal government, state governments or any law enforcement.   

All Census Bureau employees and every person with access to protected census data are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of census data, and sworn for life to protect that information. Anyone who violates this law faces severe penalties.

The ACLU and other groups are monitoring closely to ensure full compliance with privacy protections and laws.  

Will there be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census?

  • No. The Supreme Court and other courts have permanently blocked the government from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
  • The 2020 Census questionnaire can be viewed here.

Additional information and resources:

Other languages: