Civics Sunday: The 5 W’s of the 2020 US Census

Let’s clarify the 2020 Census situation!  Yes, there are two Census Questionnaires in 2020:  the Town of Holliston Census (an annual census) and the United States Census (a decennial—every 10 year—census).  Both censuses collect information about residents; it is a resident’s civic duty to respond to both. 

The Town of Holliston Census

Holliston Town Clerk Liz Greendale reminds everyone to return their 2020 Town Census

Did your return your completed Town of Holliston Census to the Town Clerk’s Office?  Several State Laws pertain to the Town Census.  To highlight a couple:

  • Massachusetts General Law (MGL) 51, Section 4c covers the importance of this return: ”Warning – failure to respond to this mailing for 2 consecutive years shall result in removal from the active voting list and may result in removal from the voter registration rolls.” Once a voter is “Inactive,” that voter will need proof of residency before being reactivated to “Voter” status.
  • MGL 51, Section 4 requests that the Town create an annual Street List that includes “the name, date of birth, occupation, veteran status, nationality, if not a citizen of the United States, and residence on January 1 of the preceding year and the current year, of each person … residing in their respective cities and towns.” 
  • The annual Town Census helps to determine certain State Funding.
Lida Harkins, a Census Specialist in the Secretary of the State’s Office recently presented US Census facts at the Holliston Senior Center

The United States Census

We all know something about the US Census, but with a 10-year interval between each, the Holliston Reporter thought it’s probably time to provide a review (or introduction – for you newbies) of some details before the Census arrives in your mailbox between March 12-20

Today Civics Sunday brings you the 5 W’s of the 2020 US Census

  • Who should respond to the 2020 Census?
  • What questions does the Census questionnaire ask?
  • When should we expect the 2020 Census invitation?
  • When should we complete the 2020 Census Questionnaire?
  • Where will we get the Census questionnaire?
  • Why should we respond?

We’ve also included:

  • How to avoid scams and
  • How to protect your information

NOTE:  Information included in this article has been collected from the US Government 2020 US Census website: https://2020census.gov/en.html and arranged for your ease of consumption. 

Who should respond to the 2020 US Census?

The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) be counted in the 2020 Census.  It is your civic duty to respond to the US Census.  Instructions to this effect were set into Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.  

If you are filling out the census for your home, you should count everyone who is living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes any friends or family members who are living and sleeping there most of the time.

If someone is staying in your home on April 1, and has no usual home elsewhere, you should count them in your response to the 2020 Census. Please also be sure to count roommates, young children, newborns, and anyone who is renting a space in your home. These people are often missed in the census. This means they can miss out on resources for themselves and their communities over the next 10 years.

Children

It is important to remember to count any children who are living with you. This includes:

  • All children who live in your home, including foster children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the children of friends (even if they are living with you temporarily).
  • Children who split their time between homes, if they are living with you on April 1, 2020.
  • Newborn babies, even those who are born on April 1, 2020, or who are still in the hospital on this date.

Students

  • Boarding school students below the college level should be counted at the home of their parents or guardians.
  • College students who are living at home should be counted at their home address.
  • College students who live away from home should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time, even if they are at home on April 1, 2020.
  • U.S. college students who are living and attending college outside the United States are not counted in the census.
  • Foreign students living and attending college in the United States should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

What questions does the Census questionnaire ask?

1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020?

Why this question is asked: This helps to count the entire U.S. population and ensures that people are counted where they live most of the time as of Census Day (April 1, 2020).

2.  Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?

Why this question is asked: The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone just once and in the right place. The Census Bureau wants to ensure that everyone in your home who should be counted is counted—including newborns, roommates, and those who may be staying with you temporarily. 

3.  Is this house, apartment, or mobile home owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan? Include home equity loans.  Is it owned by you or someone in this household free and clear (without a mortgage or loan)? Rented? Occupied without payment of rent?

Why this question is asked: This helps the Census Bureau to produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. They also help with administering housing programs, planning, and decision-making.

4.    What is your telephone number?

Why this question is asked: The Census Bureau asks for your phone number in case there are any questions about your census form. We will only contact you for official census business, if needed.

5.  What is Person 1’s name?

Why this question is asked: The Census Bureau asks a series of questions about each member of your household. This allows us to establish one central figure as a starting point.

6.  What is Person 1’s sex?

Why this question is asked: This allows the Census Bureau to create statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. This data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination.

7.  What is Person 1’s age and what is Person 1’s date of birth?

Why this question is asked: The U.S. Census Bureau creates statistics to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use this data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older adults.

8.  Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?

Why this question is asked: These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

9.  What is Person 1’s race?

Why this question is asked: This allows the Census Bureau to create statistics about race and to analyze other statistics within racial groups. This data helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

10.  Print name of Person 2.

Why this question is asked: The 2020 Census asks information about each member of your household. This question identifies the next person to refer to in the ensuing questions. This process repeats for each person in your home.

11. Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else? 

Why this question is asked: This question helps ensure that the Census Bureau is counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

12.  How is this person related to Person 1?

Why this question is asked: This allows the Census Bureau to develop data about families, households, and other groups. Relationship data is used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone.

When should we expect the 2020 Census invitation? 

In mid-March (March 12-20), homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census with detailed information on how to respond.  Some households will also receive paper questionnaires. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. 

Unique Identifier:  Your invitation to respond to the Census will contain a unique identifier that is associated with your address.  This unique identifier will be required to ensure confidentiality and your security.

When should we complete the questionnaire?

You may complete your questionnaire by phone or online beginning on the day you receive your letter. 

Reminder letters will be sent through the mail within a week of your invitation letter.  A second reminder will be sent by the end of March, followed by a third reminder letter.  An “enumerator” will personally visit your home if you still have not responded to your invitation.

April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

Where will we get the Census questionnaire?

You will receive an invitation (including your unique identifier) in the mail to respond to the 2020 US Census.  Your responses to the questionnaire may be given online, by phone, or by mail.  

If you respond to the US Census by phone, you will dial an 800- number and respond to prompts (available in 11 different languages).  You will provide your unique identifier. 

If you respond to the US Census online, you will use the online address located on your invitation, provide your unique identifier, and follow the prompts.

Why should we respond?

The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location.

Federal funding that applies to the following programs is, in part, determined by the Census results: 

  • Highway planning and construction
  • Grants for buses, subways and other public transit systems
  • Head Start education programs
  • Support for teachers and special education
  • Support for wildlife
  • To prevent child abuse
  • To provide housing assistance to older adults.

Remember that results from the 2020 Census will be in effect from 2020-2030!!

In 2015, for example, 132 programs used Census Bureau data to distribute more than $675 billion in funds during fiscal year 2015. (For more information about this disbursal, see chart: Programs receiving federal funding based upon Census data)

Additionally, information collected in the Census will help drive five additional key areas of policymaking and shape the future of the United States:

  1. State population counts from the decennial census are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  2. State and local officials use decennial census results to help redraw congressional, state, and local district boundaries.
  3. Data from the census inform a wide range of government, business, and nonprofit decision-making. 
  4. Detailed population information is critical for emergency response in the wake of disasters. 
  5. Decennial census data provide a population base for dozens of federal surveys.

How to Avoid Scams

It is important to know that the Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census. Further, during the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Money or donations.

In addition, the Census Bureau will not contact you on behalf of a political party.

If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 Census, you can do the following to verify their identity:

  • First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
  • If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.
  • If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact your local police department.

How to Protect Your Information

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes a lifetime oath to protect your personal information for life; not doing so will result in a $250,000 fine and 5 years in jail.  Census information cannot be shared with any local, state, or federal agencies.  It is against the law to solicit this information. 

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.

We hope that we’ve answered some of the questions you may have had concerning the 2020 US Census.  The reference below may be of help to those of you seeking further information.  

Everyone counts! …and we all depend on one another to respond.  

Reference:  https://2020census.gov/en.html

Yvette Cain

1 Comment

  1. Henry Dellicker on March 1, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Thank you, that is the most complete description I’ve ever seen. You obviously care for Holliston and it’s citizens.

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