Why the 2020 Census is Important

An accurate count will benefit all Californians

By Stacy Lee

June 11, 2020

What is the 2020 Census?

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, conducts a census to count every living person in the country. This is mandated by the Constitution. The 2020 Census will include the entire population of the United States, as well as residents of five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


How does the process work?

The process is simple: a paper questionnaire was mailed to every household in the U.S. and the five territories mentioned above in mid-March. The 2020 Census can be completed by filling out and returning the paper questionnaire (in English or Spanish), by visiting the questionnaire page online, or by calling 844-330-2020. Responses should reflect the people living in each household on April 1, 2020.

In addition to English, the census can be completed in 12 additional languages – Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese – when using the online or phone options.

To learn more about the questions on the census form, and why they are asked, please visit this page.


What will the government do with my information?

The Census Bureau is legally required to protect the information gathered in the 2020 Census and maintain the privacy of all respondents; more specifically it “cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.”

The data collected through the census will be aggregated to develop statistics about the population of the U.S and its five territories. None of the information will be associated with individuals or their households, or shared in any identifiable manner.

Also, it is worth highlighting that the 2020 Census does NOT include a question about citizenship status. The purpose of the census is to determine an accurate and complete population count of all people living in the U.S., regardless of immigration status.


Why should I participate?

It is critical that we have a complete and accurate census count this year and every year, as the results will determine the number of seats given to each state in the House of Representatives, how Congressional and legislative districts are drawn, as well as how billions of dollars in federal funding for programs such as Medicaid/Medi-Cal, Head Start, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are allocated.

According to estimates, up to 750,000 children in California may be missed in the 2020 Census, and an undercount of this magnitude would result in significant cuts in federal funding and the potential loss of Congressional representation. Federal funding is crucial to ensuring that everyone in California – a diverse state with a high poverty rate and large immigrant population – thrives, including the more than nine million children in our state.

California children are part of many hard-to-count populations including children for whom English is a second language, children living in low-income households and those living with families facing housing insecurity and/or homelessness, and children with disabilities or those living with family members who are disabled. In addition, children under age six, as well as children living with non-parental family members are the hardest-to-count age group. For example, in the 2010 Census, kids living with their grandparents had a 39 percent higher risk of being missed, and in California, more children are living with their grandparents than in any other state in the country. Ensuring that all children are accurately counted in the 2020 Census will mean more resources for all families, especially those with the greatest needs.


How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect this census?

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau has extended the deadline for completion from July 31 to October 31, and measures are also being taken to ensure the safety of census workers and the public, including limiting field operations such as neighborhood census takers, until they are deemed safe. Previous census outreach efforts have relied heavily on door-to-door efforts and community events to educate and engage families. These have been put on hold. It is important for everyone to continue to get the word out that filling out the 2020 Census is important to ensure all children are well supported to meet their full potential.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has created new, extraordinary strains on the state budget. Ensuring California gets an accurate count of every single person living in the state will help bring us more resources. This will mean children’s education, child care, health services, parks and other important supports are not cut or eliminated due to budget constraints.

To learn more about the 2020 Census, please visit https://2020census.gov/.