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SUNY Erie Library Resource Center

Census 2020

This guide provides resources to learn more about the 2020 Census.

Census Questions and Answers

On May 18th the SUNY Erie City Campus Library held a Surge the Census event where we had a census expert answer any and all questions about the census process. Here are some of the questions and answered we received from that event organized alphabetically. If you have any questions you would like us to answer but don't see on the list below please email us at questions@ecc.libanswers.com

Are babies included in the census?

  • It is very important that everyone is counted in the census, especially children under the age of five. By having an accurate count of where young children are living and how many of them there are, we can plan to have enough funding for schools, teachers, daycare facilities, children’s hospitals and more. Remember the census happens once every 10 years so anyone who is missed in the census who’s five or younger could be high school age before the count is corrected.
  • The general rule is to count children in the home that they usually sleep in for the majority of time. If there is no place they sleep for a majority of time, count the place they slept on April 1st.
  • If you had a baby who was born on or before April 1st 2020, count them at home where they will sleep most of the time, even if they were still in the hospital as of April 1st.
  • For more information on counting young children, check out the Census website here: https://2020census.gov/en/who-to-count/young-children.html

Can I receive a Paper Census?

Your paper census should have already been mailed out to your address between March 12th and March 20th. You cannot request a paper census from the census bureau this year. If you haven’t received a paper census and you want to fill it out now you can go online or fill out the census over the phone. You can also wait for the census taker to arrive starting August 11th through September 30st. (this has recently been moved up from October 31st)

Can I see the census questions before I take the census?

Of course! The 2020 census website will take you through each of the 12 questions that will be asked on the census and explain why each question is being asked. To see each question and a full explanation click here: https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html

Can I skip questions on the census?

  • If you would like to skip questions on the census, you may. If you are filling out the census online, the first time you click the next button without filling in the census question an alert will pop up reminding you that you have forgotten to fill out the question completely. If you hit next a second time, it will leave the question blank and move onto the next question.
  • Remember, if you leave too many questions blank you are more likely to be called or visited by a census worker to ask for clarification about your census form.

How can I be sure someone is a census worker?

      A census worker will be able to present an ID badge which includes

      Their name

      Their photograph

      A Department of Commerce watermark

      an expiration date

      They will have an official bag and Census Bureau-issued electronic device, such as a laptop or smartphone, bearing the Census Bureau logo.

      Census takers and field representatives will conduct their work between the hours of 9am and 9pm, local time.

      Census representatives will be at local organizations and community events with computer tablets to help individuals respond online to the 2020 Census.

      If you are ever unsure of someone claiming to be a census worker (either in person or over the phone) or if they make you uncomfortable, ask to see their ID and call the New York Regional Census Center at 212-882-7100 to inquire about them or call the police’s non-emergency line and ask if there are census workers scheduled to canvas your area. All census workers alert the authorities when they will be canvasing a specific neighborhood.

      A real census worker will NEVER ask for your Social Security Number, bank account information, anything on behalf of a political party, money or gift cards of any kind.

How do I know if the communication I received for the 2020 Census is legitimate?

  • The Census will not contact you through an unsolicited email regarding the 2020 Census.
  • You can check if census form you receive is legitimate by comparing it to sample census forms and letters  here: https://2020census.gov/en/mailings.html
  • If you have any questions about any contacts you receive from the Census Bureau, call Census information line at 1-800-923-8282.
  • Check this webpage for more information about avoiding Census Fraud and Scams: https://2020census.gov/en/avoiding-fraud.html

How secure is the census?

  • The Census Bureau is required under Title 13 of the U.S. code to protect any answers you give on the census. The Census Bureau legally cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies and no person other than a sworn officer or employee of the Department of Commerce may even examine the data. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
  • The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.
  • For more information on Title 13 click here: https://www.census.gov/about/policies/privacy/data_stewardship/title_13_-_protection_of_confidential_information.html
  • For more information on How the Census Bureau protects your data click here: https://2020census.gov/en/data-protection.html

If I am not a citizen of the United States but am living in the US, should I fill out the census?

  • Yes everyone living within the United State should fill out the census, this includes citizens, green card holders and immigrants. Remember the census helps to determine how funding will be allocated to aid all peoples living in America, so it’s important we have an accurate account of all citizens, soon to be citizens and non-citizens.
  • Remember there is no citizenship question on the census.

Is there a census app I can download?

No. You can fill out the census on your smartphone at https://2020census.gov/ but there is no application to download.

Is there a citizenship question on the census?

No, there is no question inquiring about anyone’s citizenship status on the census.

Is there a way to fill out the census other than online?

If you don’t want to or can’t fill out the census online or using the paper census you received in the mail, you have three other options:

  • You call the census phone number 844-330-2020 for English (50 states and Washington DC) and 844-468-2020 for Spanish (50 States and Washington DC). There are also separate numbers for residents of Puerto Rico, deaf or hearing impaired individuals, and Non-English and Non-Spanish speakers. For a full list of numbers, see this website https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond/responding-by-phone.html/ Representatives are available every day from 7am to 2am Eastern Time.
  • Or you can wait for the enumerator to arrive and they will help you fill out the census in person. If your household has not filled out the census prior to August 11th the enumerator will arrive between August 11th and October 31st.
  • Or if you live in a area with particularly low response rate, you might be visited by a Mobile Question Assistance Operation (MQA Operation). The MQA will be set up in libraries, community centers, YMCA and at community events. At these events census workers will offer assistance to local residents in filling out their census forms. Keep an eye out for any communications informing you if an MQA will be available in your area. You may also find announcements on your local county’s website.

What are the qualifications to be an enumerator (aka census taker?)

  • You must be able to work within the United States
  • You must be over 18
  • You must pass a criminal background check
  • If you are interested in applying for a job as an enumerator in your area go to https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html

What happens if I accidentally was included on multiple census forms?

  • Sometimes people can accidentally be included on multiple census forms, especially college students (ex: Your parents include them in their census and you fill out your own census at your college dorm). If this happens it’s ok.
  • If there was  a mistake on the online form, you can return to the online questionnaire and resubmit your information.
  • If you can’t return to the online form don’t worry about it. The Census Bureau has procedures in place to eliminate duplication submission errors. The important thing is to make sure everyone in the household is counted at least once.

What languages is the census available in?

  • The online census is available in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.
  • The census has non-English and Non-Spanish representatives available to help you fill out the census Monday through Friday 8am to 10pm. Representatives speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, & Japanese
  • To help you answer the census, the U.S. Census Bureau provides translated web pages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as guides in braille and large print. To see the census website in your language check here: https://2020census.gov/en/languages.html

When is the last day to turn in the census?

Self-Response ends on September 30th (This is moved up from October 31st)

When Will the Census Takers Come?

The Census taker (also called the enumerator) will arrive between August 11th and September 30th (this is moved up from October 31st). 

Where is the Census Website?

The census can be filled out at https://2020census.gov/

Who should fill out the census?

  • To fill out a census form you need to be 15 years old or older.
  • The person who fills out the form will be called the head of household and only that person needs to fill out the census form for the whole household. That means everyone who is living at the same address as of April 1st will be included on one census form. If you are living in an apartment or house with roommates at the same address, they should be included on one census form even if they are not related to you.
  • If you live in a group living facility (such as a college dorm, military barracks, or skilled nursing facility) or would have been living in a group facility on April 1st 2020, the Census Bureau has special processes in place to collect your responses to the 2020 Census. See this webpage for updated information: https://2020census.gov/en/news-events/press-releases/modifying-2020-operations.html

Why is my Census form longer than everyone else’s?

  • While the majority of the US population will only receive the US census, which is only 12 questions long, some lucky households will receive an additional form called the American Community Survey (ACS)
  • The American Community Survey is longer and contains a lot more detailed questions about yourself and your household. The information in this form is just as important as the Census and should be filled out and returned as soon as you can.
  • If you would like to learn more about the ACS or how it differs from the Census click here: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs