What is the Census?

It is a count of every person living in the United States, required by the Constitution, and done every 10 years.

The U.S. Census Bureau collects information from every household and combines the data into statistics that are used to make key policy and budget decisions. The current Census has started; you can respond online or by phone.

The Census is safe and confidential!

The U.S. Census Bureau takes many steps to protect everyone’s data, and federal law strictly limits how the information can be used. Your responses cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.  They can only be combined with others to create statistical analyses.  Individual household data can’t be shared with anyone for 72 years.

There are big penalties for anyone who breaks this law: up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine per violation.

How do I participate in the Census?

Every household will get a letter from the Census Bureau in March 2020, followed by a reminder postcard.

You have 3 ways to respond: online, by phone, or by filling out a paper form.

Online and by phone, you can answer in English + 12 other languages. The paper form is available in English and in Spanish.

You’re asked to respond by mid-May at the latest; if you don’t, a Census Bureau worker will be sent to get your response in person.

Who is counted in the Census?

EVERYONE in the household! It doesn’t matter if you’re a U.S. citizen or an immigrant, a child or an adult, the listed tenant or a friend or family member living with them, “officially” or not. If someone lives in two places (say, a child whose parents share custody, or a “snowbird” who winters in Florida), pick the home where they live most of the time.

What does the Census ask?

For each household, it asks:
• How many people live here as of April 1, 2020?
• Do you rent or own your home?
• What’s your phone number?

For each resident, it asks for:
• Name
• Relationship to respondent
• Birth date
• Age and sex
• Race and ethnicity

That’s it: quick and easy. You will NOT be asked about your nationality or immigration status!

What’s at stake in the Census?

It’s about investing in our communities:
Census data are used to allocate over $675 billion per year in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities. For Massachusetts, $16 billion is at stake, or $2,372 per person. That’s money for schools, hospitals, roads, affordable housing, public works and other vital investments.

It’s about fair political representation:
The 2020 Census will determine how many seats Massachusetts will have in Congress, and Census data will also be used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts.

It’s about who counts in our communities:
Policymakers, researchers and business leaders use Census data to paint a picture of each community and guide key choices. But past censuses have undercounted many groups: renters, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, children, senior citizens, and others. We ALL deserve to be seen, heard and counted.

What to expect? Here’s a preview of the 2020 Census form: