What is the Census?

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The 2020 Census will count everyone who lives in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020. Census statistics help determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local, and federal lawmakers every year for the next 10 years. Beginning in mid-March, households can respond to the census online or by phone. Additionally, about one-quarter of households will receive a follow-up paper questionnaire at that time. Beginning in mid-April, households that have not responded will receive a paper questionnaire.


Below are answers to many of the most commonly asked questions about the 2020 Census:

What is the census?

  • The census is a questionnaire — think of it like a survey. It only asks ten questions. It counts every living adult and child in the United States. It takes place every 10 years. The next census is in 2020.
  • The census helps our government figure out how much money each state gets for important programs. The census also determines each state’s representation in Congress.
  • The census is part of the U.S. Constitution. It is everyone’s civic duty to respond.

When is it happening?

  • You can expect to get a postcard with instructions from the U.S. Census Bureau in early March 2020. You’ll be able to respond online or by phone.
  • Census day is April 1, 2020. If you’re not sure who to count as part of your household, think about who stayed in your home on April 1. For example, if you share custody of a child, you can decide which household to count the child in based on where they stayed on April 1.
  • If you respond to the census on time, a census worker is less likely to visit your home.

What does the census ask?

  • The census asks ten simple questions about the people living in your household. This includes name, age, race, sex, and if you own or rent your home.
  • The census will not ask for your income or political party.
  • The census will not ask if you are a citizen. You may have heard about this in the news. In the end, this question was not added.

Who needs to respond?

  • It is important that every adult and every child in Mississippi be counted. This includes children, grandparents or other family members, friends, and roommates living in your home.
  • Regardless of your citizenship status, you should still respond.

Why is the census important?

  • The census helps our government figure out how much money each state gets for important programs. For every person that is not counted, our state will lose $5,000 in federal dollars every year. That adds up to $50,000 per person over the next 10 years.
  • The census happens every 10 years. If we aren’t all counted in 2020, Mississippi will be shortchanged for the next decade.
  • Our community has a lot to gain when we all respond. We can get more funding for roads and bridges, hospitals, and schools.

How do I respond?

  • Starting in March 2020, you can respond at 2020census.gov. You can do it from a computer or on your cell phone.
  • You will also be able to call the U.S. Census Bureau to answer the census questions.
  • Some households will get the census questions by mail. This is because they may have limited internet access or older adults living in the home.
  • The census will be available in many languages. The census will be available online and by phone in 13 languages, including Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Arabic. The paper version for mailing will be available in English and Spanish.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau will provide non-English support materials, such as language guides, in American Sign Language (ASL), braille, and large print. The U.S. Census Bureau’s census questionnaire assistance will include a telecommunication device for the Deaf. 

Is my information secure?

  • Yes, your information is secure. The U.S. Census Bureau will keep your information private.
  • It is illegal for the U.S. Census Bureau to share your information with other government agencies or private companies.
  • A census worker will never ask for your Social Security number, or information about your bank accounts or credit cards.
  • If you want to make sure the person at your door is really a census worker, check their badge. All census workers have an official U.S. Census Bureau ID badge. The badge should include their name, picture, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. They will also be carrying an official bag with the Census Bureau logo and an official letter explaining why they are visiting. 

Does the census ask about citizenship?

  • No, the census will not ask if you are a U.S. citizen. You may have heard about this in the news. In the end, this question was not added.

Why is the census asking for my phone number?

  • The census is only asking for your phone number in case they have questions about your responses to the questionnaire. They will not share your phone number with anyone, including businesses or other government agencies.

What about...

  • College students? Students who live away from home should be counted at their on- or off-campus residence. Students who are living at home should be counted at their home address.
  • Military service members? The U.S. Census Bureau is working with the Department of Defense to make sure families and service members living in barracks or military campgrounds are counted. Service members who are deployed should be counted at their home address.
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness? The U.S. Census Bureau has plans to reach individuals experiencing homelessness. People living in shelters should be counted at the shelter. If someone is staying with you, count them as part of your household.
  • People in prison or correctional facilities? The U.S. Census Bureau has plans to count individuals living in correctional facilities, detention centers, prisons, and jails. They will be counted in these facilities.
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