Census, the national headcount every 10 years, to begin in March

February 18 2020

Accurate population count determines House apportionment, distribution of billions in federal dollars to local communities

By RICHARD BAMMER | rbammer@thereporter.com | Vacaville Reporter

PUBLISHED: February 15, 2020 at 4:46 p.m. | UPDATED: February 15, 2020 at 4:47 p.m.

It’s right there in the U.S. Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2 — the every-10-years national headcount of every person living in the United States, the census.

The largest operation and mobilization in the nation, requiring years of research, planning and development to ensure an accurate and complete count, it will happen this year and gets underway in less than a month.

Information gathered by the population count determines many things. Among them are the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives (a process called apportionment); and how much of some $675 billion in federal funding is doled out to states and communities each year, public programs that impact housing, education and school lunches, transportation and roads, hospitals and emergency services, and employment, among others.

Additionally, businesses use census data to decide where to build factories and stores; real estate developers use the census to build new homes and fix up old neighborhoods; and residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

So responding the census and returning the information to the Census Bureau is key for Solano County, the Bay Area, California, and the nation, with its roughly 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units.

To get an accurate count, the Census Bureau must build an accurate address list of every housing unit, increase self-response to the census, and follow up with those who do not respond, according to information posted at the bureau’s website, census.gov.

To be clear, given the recent legal controversy about the Trump administration’s former plan to include a citizenship question, the census questionnaire (in English and Spanish in California — and more than 55 other languages, including American Sign Language, upon request) will not ask respondents about their citizenship status.

Typical census questions are simple: How many people are living or staying in a home, apartment or mobile home as of April 1, 2020? Is the home owned or rented? The name, sex, race, date of birth and age of each person, whether related or not, living in the residence?

People can respond to the census either online (for the first time in history), by telephone, or by paper. Questionnaire responses and data are safe, protected, and confidential, according to U.S. Census officials.


U.S. households will begin to receive invitations, likely a postcard in the regular mail, to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire online between March 12 and 20.

Reminder letters will be mailed between March 26 and April 3. Census Day is April 1.

A second reminder and questionnaire will be mailed between April 8 and 16.

A final reminder letter will be mailed between April 20 and 27 before the Census Bureau follows up in person.

Nonresponse follow-ups to households that did not respond will be between May and July.

If a Census Bureau employee comes to your door or contacts you, you can ask to see identification or for their name to make sure they work for the Bureau. You have the right to refuse to provide any personal information to someone who comes to your door without federal identification that proves they are a Census Bureau employee.

“The Census Bureau is ready for the nation to respond next month,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in a press release. “Millions of Americans are applying for 2020 Census jobs, more than 270,000 local and national organizations are engaged, and in less than 30 days the majority of U.S. households will receive an invitation to respond to help ensure that every person in the U.S. is counted.”

This article appeared in The Reporter 2/15/20.