Census Questions are Coming: What to Expect
by Maggie McKneely • February 18, 2020
Every 10 years since 1790, the US Census Bureau has been conducting a census of the America population. This year will be the 24th time the federal government has undertaken this task.
From March 12 through March 20, American households will receive mailed instructions on how to complete the census either online, by phone, or by mail.
Because the census inherently involves the government asking for information about everyone living in your home, you may have questions about the process. Such as, what are your rights regarding divulging private information? How does the census affect your right to homeschool? Is everyone required to participate? Why does the government need this information, anyway?
What Does the Government Do with Census Data?
The most basic function of census data is to determine the number of US representatives from each state. But data is also used to allocate billions of dollars of federal funds for highways, schools, healthcare, affordable housing, and other community programs.
What Are the 2020 Questions?
This year’s short form is very similar to the one sent out in 2010. It includes basic questions for each member of the household in order to collect the following information.
- How many people were living or staying in each house, apartment, or mobile home
- Whether or not any additional people stayed in the home on April 1, 2020, who were not included in Question 1
- Whether or not the homeowners/leasers have mortgages or pay rent
- The household’s telephone number
- The name of the head of household (Person 1)
- The sex of Person 1
- The age and Date of Birth of Person 1
- If Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
- The race of Person 1
- The name of Person 2
- Whether or not Person 2 usually lives in the home or stays somewhere else
- The relation of Person 2 to Person 1
The Census Bureau will never ask you for money, your Social Security number, or information about your bank account and credit card. If you receive a questionnaire asking for any of these, it’s likely a scam.
Will There be any Questions about Homeschooling?
Not this year.
Is the Census Constitutional?
Article 1, section 2 of the US Constitution authorizes Congress to take a nationwide population census every 10 years. The Founders created a government with limited powers, but even a limited government needs some information about its citizens in order to function.
Is Participation Required?
Participating in the census is required by law. There is clear federal warning in the code about refusing to give the required information to the Census Bureau. US Code, Title 13 states that citizens must comply with the census or face a $100 fine. There is a $500 penalty for giving false information.
Is My Privacy Protected?
While answering the census is required by law, the Census Bureau is also required by law, under Title 13 of the US Code, to keep your answers private. Responses are only used to produce statistics that benefit communities.