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Census Research: 2020 Census

All About the 2020 Census

Use this portion of the guide to learn more about the upcoming Census. 

Why Do We Need The Census?

The Census does a lot! Its goal is to count every person living in the United States on April 1, 2020 and to gather some information about those people. The data we get from the Census is very powerful.

  • Census data are used to make decisions about how and where to spend more than $800 billion each year for programs and services that communities rely on. [source]
  • Population counts help the government to redistrict state legislative districts -- Illinois will likely LOSE a seat in the house this Census, and may lose two if an undercount occurs [source]
  • The Census also helps state and local governments to forecasting needs like transportation and education - it can help us to plan and implement programs and services for our communities [source
  • It determines which areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans [source]

It can also help regular people with their research and decision-making. Because Census data is government information, it is available to you (see other pages in this guide to help with your research. Census data can help citizens to...

  • Learn more about their communities 
  • Plan for business decisions 

What About Confidentiality?

"All responses to Census Bureau surveys and censuses are confidential and protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. Under this law, the Census Bureau is required to keep respondent information confidential. We will never share a respondent’s personal information with immigration enforcement agencies, like ICE; law enforcement agencies, like the FBI or police; or allow it to be used to determine their eligibility for government benefits.
The results from any census or survey are reported in statistical format only. Individual records from the decennial censuses are, by law (Title 44, U.S. Code), confidential for 72 years."
-2020 Census Complete Count Committee Guide, US Census Bureau. 

 

Be wary that some scammers may try to get your information by pretending to be from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau will never text or email you, and they will never ask you to provide a donation, financial information (a credit card number, a blank check, etc.), or a social security number.

The 2020 Census

What's Different About the 2020 Census?

Online Self-Response

For the first time ever, the Census Bureau is promoting the Online Self-Response option as the preferred method of completing the Census. Respondents will recieve an ID code in the mail to enter when completing the online form. Respondents can also use their address instead of the ID code. The online questionnaire will be available in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese [Simplified], English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese).

The online option will make responding easier for some, as they can just enter the information at their convenience. However, many still do not have reliable internet access and/or the necessary skills to respond to the form online. Libraries, the Census Bureau, and other organizations are working together to find solutions to those problems.

The Census will also be available via phone or paper form, as well.

Same-Sex Marriage Option

For the first time, the 2020 Census will include options which indicate a same-sex relationship with another household member. This change is expected to improve national statistics on same-sex couples. 

 

Information for College Students

If you live in the ON CAMPUS (residence halls, townhouses, etc):

The Census Bureau classifies on-campus living spaces as "group quarters." They will contact the university to get information about those living on campus separately. You will not fill out the census! If you have a permanent address other than the dorms (like your parents' house), make sure the people at that address DO NOT count you on their form.

If you live OFF CAMPUS (in an apartment, etc.):

You'll fill out your own census form! If you live with roommates or other people, select one person to be your "house holder" and have them fill out the form. You should sit with them as they fill out the form to make sure the information they give about you is accurate! If you have a permanent address other than your apartment/home (like your parents' house), make sure the people at that address DO NOT count you on their form.

If you live WITH YOUR FAMILY (commuter students):

Make sure you or someone in your family fills out the form and includes you! 

 

What About The Citizenship Question?

The "citizenship question" will NOT be included in the 2020 Census.

Much has been made about potentially including a question about whether or not census respondents are American citizens. Three federal courts have since blocked the Trump Administration's attempt to get this question onto census forms.

The Trump Administration's Perspective

During his testimony before Congress, the Secretary of Commerce (the department which distributes the Census), Wilbur Ross, said the question was added because Justice Department requested more citizenship data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. Members of the administration--and some Supreme Court Justices--also stated that questions about citizenship were nothing new, and that similar questions have been included in most US Censuses. Many historians have stated that this is an oversimplification. Regardless, the citizenship question was defeated in court, as the Trump Administration was unable to prove that its motives for including the question were related to the Voting Rights Act. President Trump offered this statement in response, and issued an executive order to collect citizenship data via other agencies. 

The Arguments Against The Citizenship Question

Protesters argued that questions of citizenship have previously been used to the detriment of non-citizens, including the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. They also argued that citizens and non-citizens alike may choose not to answer the question or not to take the census out of fear or as a form of protest, resulting in inaccurate data. Specifically, detractors were worried that this would lead to an undercount of vulnerable populations who already lack political power. For a scholarly challenge to the citizenship question, click here and search the Brookens Library Catalog for more information.