2020 Census Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs related to the 2020 Census.

About

The Basics

What is the Census?

The United States Census is a national population count that occurs every 10 years.

Why do we have a Census?

The data collected from the Census is used to make sure everyone is equally represented in our political system and that government resources are allocated fairly. The Census data determines how many congressional seats a state receives; how much federal funding will be allocated to local communities for public services and infrastructure needs; and provides a picture of the changing demographics of the country. Data gathered through the 2020 Census will also be used in the redistricting process to determine boundary lines for City Council and Oakland Unified School Board districts.

Who gets counted?

Everyone! Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census counts all people who reside in the United States, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The City of Oakland is committed to ensuring all residents are counted during the 2020 Census, especially those groups who have been historically marginalized (e.g. communities of color, immigrants, refugees, native people, LGBTQ residents, among others). In Oakland, we know that everyone counts, and everyone deserves to be counted.

Where can I be counted?

Online, by telephone, or via mail! This is the first Census to go digital, so you can fill out your household survey on your home computer or at any of the internet enabled Questionnaire Assistance Centers, which will be available at convenient locations across Oakland and Alameda County.

When is the Census?

Starting in March 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail postcards to every household in the United States inviting all to respond to the Census survey. Every household should receive a postcard requesting that they complete a census survey online, by mail, or phone by Census Day on April 1, 2020.


About the Survey

What questions does the Census survey ask?

The Census survey will ask your name, sex, age, date of birth, race/ethnicity, as well as those details for everyone in your household.

Who counts as a “household”?

Everyone in your housing unit. A household consists of all the people who occupy a housing unit, both related family members and all the unrelated people, if any, such as renters, tenants, lodgers, foster children, wards, or employees who share the housing.


Getting Counted

How do I complete the Census?

There are three ways you can fill out the Census survey: online, by telephone, or via mail. Households can answer the questions on the internet or by phone in English and 12 Non-English languages (Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese).

When should I look for my Census invitation in the mail?

Starting in March 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail postcards to every household in the United States inviting them to respond to the Census survey. Every household should receive a postcard requesting that they complete a census form online, by mail, or phone by Census Day on April 1, 2020.

Is this the first time the Census will be available online?

Yes! The 2020 Census will be the first Census to be almost entirely digital! While a paper form will still be available, for the first time the Internet will be the primary response option.

What happens if I don’t respond to the Census at all?

If your household does not respond to the Census online, by phone, or via mail, the U.S. Census Bureau will send a Census worker, known as an enumerator, to your address to collect the information in person.

Will a Census worker come to my residence?

If your household does NOT submit a completed census survey by late April 2020, you can expect a follow up visit to your residence from a Census worker, known as an enumerator, to help you complete the survey.

What if my household fails to respond online or by telephone?

If your household fails to respond online or by telephone, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail several reminders to your household and will ultimately mail you a printed questionnaire—in English and Spanish—for you to return by mail.

What happens if I don’t respond to the Census on time?

Households who have not responded to the Census online or by phone by late April 2020 will be mailed a printed questionnaire—in English and Spanish— to return by mail.

Is there a phone number I can call for more information or help filling out my Census survey from home?

You may dial the U.S. Census Bureau Call Center: (301) 763-INFO (4636) or (800) 923-8282. TDD: TTY users can dial (800) 877-8339 to use the Federal Relay Service.

Where can I get in-person help filling out my Census survey?

The City of Oakland is working in partnership with Alameda County and local organizations to provide Questionnaire Assistance Centers throughout the area. The centers will have internet enabled devices to complete the survey and some centers may be providing volunteer assistance. More information about the Questionnaire Assistance Centers will be available in early-2020.

What if I don’t have Internet access at home?

Households that do not have internet access are encouraged to visit a Questionnaire Assistance Center to complete the 2020 Census survey. These centers will be housed across Oakland and Alameda County at libraries, City/County buildings, parks, community-based organizations, schools, and at select community events in the Spring of 2020.

When can I go online and fill out the Census survey?

Beginning in mid-March 2020, households will receive an invitation in the mail to participate in the census by visiting the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Census website to fill out the online survey.


Language Access

How many languages will the Census be available in online?

The online survey will be offered in 13 languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese) and will allow you to answer at your convenience from your home computer, over the phone, or at a Questionnaire Assistance Center.

I don’t speak English. Will the Census be available in other languages?

Yes, the online survey and phone response option will be offered in 12 non-English languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese). Paper Census surveys will only be available in English and Spanish. Print and video language guides will be available in 59 Non-English languages.


Limited Household Visits

Will a Census worker visit my residence?

For the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau will only visit homes that DO NOT respond to the Census.

When will these limited household visits take place?

Census workers, also known as enumerators, will ONLY visit households that did not respond to the Census survey starting in late April through early July 2020.

What will a Census enumerator ask me?

The enumerator will ask you all the same survey questions that will appear in the online version of the Census.


Safety and Privacy

Is the Census safe?

Yes. Under federal census law (Title 13 of the U.S. Code), your responses are kept confidential and can only be used by the U.S. Census Bureau to produce statistics.

Is it safe to submit my personal information to the U.S. Census Bureau online?

Yes! It is safe to submit your Census survey responses online. All data submitted online is encrypted to protect your personal privacy.

Do I need a Social Security number to compete the Census?

No. It’s important to remember that the U.S. Census Bureau will never ask for a social security number, money or donations, political party affiliation, bank or credit card information, or your mother’s maiden name.

Can U.S. Census Bureau workers share my information?

No, that’s illegal. U.S. Census Bureau workers who have access to your personal information are sworn for life to protect confidentiality and are subject to a $250,000 fine and/or up to five years in federal prison for the wrongful disclosure of information.

How long does my information stay private?

Personal census information cannot be disclosed for 72 years, including names, addresses, and telephone numbers.

Can my Census answers affect my eligibility for government benefits?

No, your answers cannot be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits.

Can another government agency access my Census information?

No. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires your information to be kept confidential and prevents your responses from being used against you by any government agency- including law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, or US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Census Jobs

How do I get a job with the U.S. Census Bureau?

There are temporary part-time and full-time job opportunities with the US Census Bureau to support the 2020 Census. For more information on job opportunities visit: https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.

How long does it take to apply for a job with the U.S. Census Bureau?

The online job application should take about 30 minutes and will include some assessment questions about your education, work, and other experience. Here’s what you’ll need to get started: Social Security number; Home address (physical location and mailing address); Email address and phone number; Date and place of birth.