What is the Census?

 

The Census is conducted every 10 years. The census aims to count every person living in the United States regardless of citizenship status. This year’s census will serve as America’s 24th census and will count every person living in the United States as of April 1st, 2020 (Census Day).

Everyone Must Complete the 2020 Census! If you live in the United States, you are required by law to participate in the 2020 count, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. It’s also mandated by the Constitution: The United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.

 

How Do You Respond to the Census?

 

You will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail. If you forget or fail to respond, then someone will come out to your home to ask the census questions in person.

 

What information is Collected?

 

Next year’s census will collect the following information:

  • Age
  • Hispanic origin
  • Race
  • Sex
  • The number of individuals living in a household
  • If the household owns or rents the property
  • NOT CITIZENSHIP INFORMATION
  • NOT DISABILITY INFORMATION

 

How is the Census Information Used?

 

Nationally:

  • Figure out how more than $675 billion in federal government resources will be distributed
  • Allocate seats in the United Sates House of Representatives
  • Draw the appropriate boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts, school districts, and voting precincts

In Massachusetts, census information will determine federal funding for the next 10 years of things like:

  • public health programs and services
  • planning of public transportation improvements
  • education grants
  • designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly, and children

 

The Census and People with Disabilities

 

People with disabilities make up 22% of the American public, yet they traditionally have been among the most under-counted populations. Disability is not only its own category, it is also a subset found within every social, economic, and racial demographic in the United States.

 

Possible Reasons Why People with Disabilities Do Not Participate in the Census

 

  • They have never been asked
  • They believe that the census will not have an impact on their life
  • They don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information
  • They are worried that the information will be used against them

 

Reasons Why People with Disabilities WILL Participate in the 2020 Census

 

  • Surveys are conducted in partnership with a trusted community group, advocacy organization, or person they already know.
  • Completing the survey in a place where they are comfortable, such as an independent living center.
  • Having someone they trust with them when they are completing the census on a computer or by smartphone.
  • Understanding how important completing the census is.
  • Having access to web-based information in accessible formats or census information in plain language

 

Will the Census be Accessible?

 

The Census Bureau has indicated that next year’s questionnaire will be fully accessible. They will provide large print and braille paper questionnaires. Telephone contact centers will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology for the phone questionnaire. The internet questionnaire will also be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Along with the actual questionnaires, it will be crucial that outreach efforts be fully accessible as well.

 

Confidentiality

 

Several laws exist to protect an individual’s information after completing the Census.

  • Data collected for the census is used for statistical purposes ONLY. It is illegal to use this data for any nonstatistical purpose, such as immigration regulation.
  • Census workers are sworn to secrecy under the threat of criminal punishment. It is illegal for anyone BUT census workers to see someone’s census information.
  • It is illegal for the US Census to disclose individual census responses that will in any way allow someone to be identified.
  • It is illegal for the US Census to share individual responses with other government agencies.
  • It is illegal for the Census Bureau or any other government agency to use the census information provided against the person who provided it.

 

2020 Census Timeline

 

  • March 12 – 20: Invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census. Households in certain areas will receive paper questionnaires.
  • March 16 – 24: Reminder letter
  • March 26 – April 3: If you have not responded, a reminder postcard
  • April 1 – CENSUS DAY
  • April 8 – 16: If you have not responded, a reminder letter and paper questionnaire
  • April 20 – 27: If you have not responded, a final reminder postcard
  • Mid-May through July – If you have not responded, the Census will follow up in person with Census Bureau enumerators

 

Resources

 

The Census is Coming: How Nonprofits Can Make Sure That Everyone Counts—and Why They Should. From Massachusetts Nonprofit Network: Commonwealth Insights. Download the PDF file.

An Accessible 2020 Census: Frequently Asked Questions by the Disability Community about Census Operations from National Disability Rights and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. Download the PDF file

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