Census 2020 FAQs
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are provided by the Census 2020, for more information visit the U.S. 2020 Census FAQ site.
What is a census?
A census is an official, complete count of a population. A census may also record details about each person such as age, sex, and living arrangement.
What is the purpose of the census? What is the census used for?
The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every 10 years to count all people—both citizens and noncitizens—living in the United States.  An accurate count of the population is required by law and serves as the basis for fair political representation. It plays a vital role in many areas of public life.
State population counts from the census are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives across the 50 states.
State and local officials use census results to help redraw congressional, state, and local district boundaries to meet the one-person, one-vote rule.
Governments and nonprofit organizations rely on census data to determine the need for new roads, hospitals, schools, and other public-sector investments. Census data are also vital to businesses as a key source of information about the changing needs of the U.S. population.
Census data were used to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and local communities for health, education, housing, and infrastructure programs.
When does the 2020 Census start?
While April 1, 2020 is officially Census Day, preparation for the population count starts nearly a decade in advance, and enumeration takes place over several months. The 2020 Census kicks off in January 2020 with the population count in remote parts of Alaska—while the area is frozen and traversable.  Notices and forms will start arriving in the mail in March 2020. For households that don't respond to the census, nonresponse follow-up begins in April 2020 and wraps up at the end of July 2020.
Is the 2020 Census mandatory? Am I required to fill out my 2020 Census form?
Participation is mandatory, as described in Title 13 of the U.S. Code. Refusal to respond can result in a fine. However, no one has been prosecuted for failing to respond to the census since the 1970 Census.
Can I refuse to answer a census question?
While participation in the census—and answering all questions—is mandatory, people occasionally leave a question blank. The Census Bureau uses a statistical procedure to fill in any missing responses.
Will the Census Bureau keep coming to my door if I don't fill out my 2020 Census form?
If you don't respond to the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will send up to five mailings to your address and an enumerator to your door.  For up to six days (with the possibility of more than one contact attempt per day), an enumerator will attempt to gather census information from someone in the household.  After each contact attempt, the enumerator will leave a "Notice of Visit" form encouraging households to respond via mail, phone, or online. After three days of attempting to contact someone at the address, an enumerator may begin contacting neighbors to request a proxy response for the nonresponding household.
What is an enumerator?
An enumerator is a specially trained Census Bureau employee who collects census information from people in-person. Enumerators carry identification with their name and photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. They also carry materials such as a bag or laptop with the Census Bureau logo.
Are census responses confidential?
The confidentiality of census records is protected by Title 13 of the U.S. Code. No data or tabulation may be produced that could be used to identify an individual. Individual records may not be released for at least 72 years.
How are census data collected?
In 2020, households will have the option of responding online, by mail, or by phone.
How will the 2020 Census count everyone?
Through a process of contacting every household, group quarters facility (such as college dormitory, barracks, or prison), and homeless support facility (such as shelter or soup kitchen) the Census Bureau will attempt to count the entire U.S. population in 2020.
How does the Census Bureau know where people live?
To count every person, the Census Bureau relies on an accurate and up-to-date list of residential addresses. This list is known as the Master Address File, and includes addresses served by the U.S. Postal Service, information gathered from local governments, and information updated by Census Bureau employees in the field.
Are foreign citizens counted in the Census?
The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every 10 years to count all people—both citizens and noncitizens—living in the United States. Foreign citizens are considered to be living in the United States if, at the time of the census, they're living and sleeping most of the time at a U.S. residence. The foreign resident population includes legal permanent residents, foreign students in the United States on student visas, foreign diplomats and embassy staff, and other foreign citizens who reside in the United States on Census Day. However, citizens of foreign countries visiting the United States (such as on a vacation or business trip) are not counted in the census.