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Census FAQ

Find answers to common Census questions below.  For additional information, visit the US Census Bureau's website.  Find Palm Beach County specific facts hereWatch a Facebook Live Q and A about the 2020 census. 

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a population count of everyone in the United States. Data from the census provide the basis for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to communities across the country to support vital programs—impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care, and public policy. They also are used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts and accurately determine the number of congressional seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Responding to the census is not only your civic duty; it also affects the amount of funding your community receives, how your community plans for the future, and your representation in government. Specifically, data from the 2020 Census are used to:

The next census will take place in 2020. Beginning in mid-March, people will receive a notice in the mail to complete the 2020 Census. Once you receive it, you can respond online. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin following up in person with households that haven’t responded to the census.

When it's time to respond, most households will receive an invitation in the mail.

Every household will have the option of responding online, by mail, or by phone.  In 2020, for the first time ever, the Census Bureau will accept responses online and by phone. Responding should take less time than it takes to finish your morning coffee. You can still respond by mail.

Depending on how likely your area is to respond online, you'll receive either an invitation encouraging you to respond online or an invitation asking you to go online to complete the census questionnaire. 

Letter Invitation

  • Most areas of the country are likely to respond online, so most households will receive a letter asking you to go online to complete the census questionnaire.  Look for this letter on or between March 12-20.

Letter Invitation and Paper Questionnaire

  • Areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with their invitation. The invitation will also include information about how to respond online or by phone. Look for this letter on or between March 12-20.

YES! Counting young children is VERY important.

Newborn babies and young children under five are often missed in the census. The 2020 Census helps determine which areas qualify for the critical resources that children and families depend on for the next 10 years—basically, an entire childhood! Examples of resources that could be impacted include food assistance, Head Start, childcare, housing support, public schools, early intervention services for children with special needs, children’s health insurance, and more. Knowing how many children there are and where they live is essential to getting those services and programs to them. That’s why it’s so important that every child be counted, even newborn babies. Here are some guidelines:

  • Count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents don’t live there. 
  • If a child’s time is divided between more than one home, count them where they stay most often. If their time is evenly divided, or you don’t know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on Census Day—April 1, 2020.
  • If a child’s family (or guardian) is moving during March or April 2020, count them at the address where they are living on April 1, 2020. 
  • Count children in your home if they don’t have a permanent place to live and are staying in your home on April 1, 2020, even if they are only staying with you temporarily.
  • Count newborn babies at the home where they will live and sleep most of the time, even if they are still in the hospital on April 1, 2020.

Questions? Call 561-742-6010.

The decennial census will collect basic information about the people living in your household. When completing the census, you should count everyone who is living in your household on April 1, 2020.  Questions asked will include: 

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020. This will help us count the entire U.S. population and ensure that we count people according to where they live on Census Day.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help us produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation's economy. They also help in administering housing programs and informing planning decisions.
  • About the sex of each person in your home. This allows us 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.
  • About the age of each person in your home. 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.
  • About the race of each person in your home. This allows us to create statistics about race and to provide other statistics by 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.
  • About whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This is needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  • About the relationship of each person in your home. This allows the Census Bureau to create estimates about families, households, and other groups. Relationship data is used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone.

Governments, businesses, communities, and nonprofits all rely on the data that these questions produce to make critical decisions.

The Census Bureau will never ask for:

•Social Security numbers.
•Bank or credit card account numbers.
•Money or donations.
•Anything on behalf of a political party.

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these things, it's a scam, and you should not cooperate. For more information, visit Avoiding Fraud and Scams.

Strict federal law protects your census responses. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual. Census Bureau employees take a lifelong pledge of confidentiality to handle data responsibly and keep respondents’ information private. The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both. No law enforcement agency (not the DHS, ICE, FBI, or CIA) can access or use your personal information at any time. Data collected can only be used for statistical purposes that help inform important decisions, including how much federal funding your community receives.

The Census Bureau has a robust cybersecurity program that incorporates industry best practices and federal security standards for encrypting data.  Learn more.

Here are just 50 ways in which Census data is used:

  • Decision making at all levels of government
  • Drawing federal, state and local legislative districts
  • Attracting new businesses to state and local areas
  • Distributing billions in federal funds and even more in state funds
  • Forecasting future transportation needs for all segments of the population
  • Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services
  • Forecasting future housing needs for all segments of the population
  • Directing funds for services for people in poverty
  • Designing public safety strategies
  • Development of rural areas
  • Analyzing local trends
  • Estimating the number of people displaced by natural disasters
  • Developing assistance programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • Creating maps to speed emergency services to households in need of assistance
  • Delivering goods and services to local markets
  • Designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly or children
  • Planning future government services
  • Planning investments and evaluating financial risk
  • Publishing economic and statistical reports about the United States and its people
  • Facilitating scientific research
  • Developing "intelligent" maps for government and business
  • Providing proof of age, relationship, or residence certificates provided by the Census Bureau
  • Distributing medical research
  • Reapportioning seats in the House of Representatives
  • Planning and researching for media as backup for news stories
  • Providing evidence in litigation involving land use, voting rights and equal opportunity
  • Drawing school district boundaries
  • Planning budgets for government at all levels
  • Spotting trends in the economic well-being of the nation
  • Planning for public transportation services
  • Planning health and educational services for people with disabilities
  • Establishing fair market rents and enforcing fair lending practices
  • Directing services to children and adults with limited English language proficiency 
  • Planning urban land use
  • Planning outreach strategies
  • Understanding labor supply
  • Assessing the potential for spread of communicable diseases
  • Analyzing military potential
  • Making business decisions
  • Understanding consumer needs
  • Planning for congregations
  • Locating factory sites and distribution centers
  •  Distributing catalogs and developing direct ail pieces
  • Setting a standard for creating both public and private sector surveys
  • Evaluating programs in different geographic areas
  • Providing genealogical research
  • Planning for school projects
  • Developing adult education programs
  • Researching historical subject areas
  • Determining areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans
  •  

The US Census Bureau can help explain who to count, and where. Click here for more information about special circumstances including new babies, deaths, military and more! 

Sure! Take a look at the Sample Census Form.