Frequently Asked Questions on the National Census

Document Date: March 11, 2000

What is the Census?

  • The Census is a brief survey the Census Bureau sends to every household in the country every 10 years. The Constitution requires that every person living in the United States is counted.

Why does it matter?

  • The Census is a fundamental pillar of our democracy and our constitutional structure, governing the allocation of congressional seats and Electoral College votes.
  • Census data also informs how the federal government spends $900 billion on critical services like building roads, providing for health insurance, and supporting education.
  • An accurate census count is vital to a strong democracy. If people are not counted, their communities will receive less representation in government and fewer resources.

When is the Census?

  • The Census is going on NOW.
  • The Census Bureau started mailing census materials on March 12, 2020, and by now most people should have received their actual Census form or their invitation to complete the Census online.
  • Your response to the Census should not be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – you can do it at home, today.
  • You can help protect democracy and do your civic duty by responding to the Census.

How to respond to the Census:

  • It has never been easier to respond on your own, at home whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker or have any in-person interactions.


  • If you have ID code that the Census Bureau sent you in the mail, complete your census here.
  • But having your ID code is not necessary. Even without the code, you can still complete the census online here.


  • You can also complete the census on the phone with a Census Bureau questionnaire assistance representative by calling 1-844-330-2020.
  • Phones are open 7:00 am to 1:00 am eastern time.


  • If you have been mailed or are mailed paper census form in the future, you should have received a postage-paid envelope to send back to the Census Bureau.
  • If you have lost the return envelope, send your completed questionnaire to:

    U.S. Census Bureau
    P.O. Box 5050
    Jeffersonville, IN 47199-5050

    • Remember – do not lick the envelope.
  • Only one response per household is needed, but make sure to list every member of your household, including young children. (See below for special instructions about college students).
  • The sooner you complete the census the better, but these self-response options will remain open throughout the summer.

Other potential questions:

Is Census data private?

  • Yes. The Census Bureau is subject to some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law. Private information collected through any survey conducted by the Census Bureau can never be published. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or their address. Personal information collected through the Census also cannot be disclosed to any person, organization, or government body, including other departments of the federal government, state governments or any law enforcement.
  • All Census Bureau employees and every person with access to protected census data are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of census data, and sworn for life to protect that information. Anyone who violates this law faces severe penalties.
  • The ACLU and other groups are monitoring closely to ensure full compliance with privacy protections and laws.

Will there be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census?

  • No. The Supreme Court and other courts have permanently blocked the government from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Where should college students be counted:

  • Generally college students should and will be counted at their college addresses (the place where they live and sleep most of time.)
  • Students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus should still be counted at their college address even if they are home. The Census Bureau is working for colleges and universities to help get an accurate count, including asking them to contact their students and remind them to respond.

How to answer the sex question if you are transgender:

  • Unfortunately the Census survey does not yet recognize the diversity of genders that exist in the U.S. and across the world.
  • You can self-identify here in the way that feels most comfortable to you.
  • Your answer to this question does not need to match what you have on official documents.


  • There have been rumors that an individual must complete the census to be eligible for the federal stimulus aid that is and will be available in response to the COVID-19 crisis. That is not true.
  • It is required by law that all persons residing in the United States on April 1, 2020 respond to the Census, and it is important for democracy to obtain an accurate count of everybody. But, there are no federal or state benefits currently contingent on completing the Census nor will there be in the future.

Additional information and resources:

  • The Census Counts coalition website at is a good resource for most Census questions, including state specific information.

  • is a resource for the Latino community.

  • is a resource for the Asian American/Native Hawaii/Pacific Islander community and provides a hotline to report any Census problems.

  • is a resource for Native Americans.

  • The Arab American Institute also has a hotline that can provide language assistance - 833-33-6864 (833-3DD-OUNI).

Other languages:

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.