Frequently Asked Questions
The Decennial Census (Census) is a population count of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas as of April 1st (Census Day) of each census year. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates an enumeration of everyone residing in the U.S. every 10 years. The first Census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since.
The U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, conducts the census.
The decennial census is important because the results are used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment) and to define representative boundaries for congressional, state and local legislative districts (a process called redistricting).
Additionally, decennial census data are used to distribute of over $675 billion in federal funds to states and local governments for vital community services, including but not limited to public safety, housing and community development, workforce development, health and human services, education, transportation and environmental protection. The State of California receives approximately $77 billion in federal funding. The City of Long Beach receives over $80 million in federal funding. It is estimated that California and local communities could lose $1,950 per year for 10 years for each person not counted in the decennial census. A complete and accurate 2020 Census count is therefore critical for ensuring that California gets a fair share of Congressional representation and federal resources.
Decennial Census data also determine address lists for the American Community Survey (ACS) and other Census Bureau surveys that in turn produce trend data on the economy, housing, crime, poverty, unemployment, health, education and other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics important to understanding community needs, market conditions and the relative quality of life of states and local communities in the United States. State and local governments, education, academic, public health and philanthropic institutions and businesses rely on Census data for planning and decision-making concerning the provision of services and/or making investments in local communities. It is also helpful for many other organizations to know the population, housing and socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods, cities and states. Community-based organizations use Census data to understand how communities are being served and when necessary, to support applications for grant funding to address community needs.
The Census counts everyone who is living in the U.S. as of April 1st, including people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.
Depending on how likely your area is to respond online, you’ll receive either an invitation encouraging you to respond online or an invitation along with a paper questionnaire. See what the official US Census Bureau mailings will look like here.
In areas where 20 percent or more of the households need Spanish assistance, the invitations will be in both English and Spanish. Find out what type of mailing your household in Long Beach will receive here.
The U.S. Census Bureau counts people residing in single- and multi-family dwelling units, group quarters and transitory locations as of April 1st of the Census year. Group quarters are group-living arrangements owned and managed by an organization providing housing and services for residents. Examples include correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing and group homes, college dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, military barracks, workers’ and religious group living quarters. As part of the broader group quarters operation, the Census Bureau conducts what is called Service-Based Enumeration to count people residing in homeless shelters and at targeted outdoor locations. Transitory locations are units where people who do not have a usual home elsewhere reside, such as marinas, recreational vehicle parks, hotels, motels and campgrounds. People away from their usual residence on Census Day are counted where they live or sleep most of the time.
Although the Census Bureau strongly encourages voluntary participation in the Census, completion of the Census survey is in fact required by law under Title 13 of the U.S. Code.
Hard-To-Count (HTC) or Hard-To-Survey (HTS) are phrases used interchangeably to describe geographic areas and demographic populations that have been historically undercounted or traditionally have not responded well to the decennial census questionnaire. HTC or HTS areas as census tracts or block groups with low self-response rates (mail-return rates) in prior censuses. The Census Bureau currently defines a hard-to-count census tract or block group as one where more than 27 percent of households are not likely to respond to the decennial census questionnaire based on mail-return rates in 2010. Using these prior census response rates, the Census Bureau assigns a Low Response Score (LRS) to census tracts and block groups. As a baseline, a hard-to-count area would have a LRS of at least 27.09, meaning that this proportion residents within a census tract or block group did not self-respond to the census survey. View the Long Beach LRS Map of hard-to-count areas. Below are some examples of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics commonly found in hard-to-count areas:
- Hispanics/Latinos, Blacks/African-Americans, Asian-Americans & Pacific Islanders (API), Native Americans and Tribal Communities;
- People older than 25 with less than a high school education;
- People age 16 or older unemployed;
- Households below the poverty level;
- Low-income households;
- Homeless families/persons;
- Households without broadband subscriptions or limited to no access.
- Children age 0-4;
- Foreign born residents;
- People with limited English proficiency;
- Veteran, Senior and Disabled residents;
- LGBTQ+ residents;
- College students age 18-24;
- Temporary residents;
- Overcrowded households;
- Non-family households;
- Single-parent households;
- Vacant housing units;
- Renter-occupied housing units; and,
- Multifamily housing with more than 3 units.
The primary response option for the 2020 Census will be an online questionnaire, accessible from desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smart phones. Respondents will also be able to take the census by telephone.
Approximately 95 percent of households will receive correspondence via U.S. mail starting March 12, 2020, providing instructions and inviting them to complete the census. (See our map gallery to find out exactly what kind of mailing you'll receive and in what language.) Respondents will receive up to two reminder notices in March 2020 and a mailed questionnaire on the fourth contact attempt in April 2020 if necessary. After the fourth contact attempt, non-respondents will receive one additional post card reminder.
In May 2020, the Census Bureau enumerators will begin conducting follow-up visits to nonresponding addresses/locations contained in the Census Master Address File to collect information at the door.
The 2020 Census questionnaire will have 9 questions. The questions will ask about age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, relationship, and homeownership status. There will be no citizenship question listed on the form.
The Census Bureau delivers the apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives to the President by December 31, 2020. Additionally, the Census Bureau will deliver redistricting counts to the states in March of 2021 and not later than April 1, 2021.
No. Information given on the Census form is confidential. By law (Title 13 of the U.S. code), Census information is not shared with any other government agency and can only be used to produce statistical data. Census workers take an oath to protect the privacy of respondents’ information. Unlawful disclosure will result in a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both. Learn More
No. The online Census questionnaire will be available in 12 non-English languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. The Census Bureau will provide language assistance via phone in the above 12 non-English languages and in American Sign Language. Language guides and videos in 59 non-English languages (including the 12 priority non-English languages) and American Sign Language. The Census Bureau will also produce a language glossary reflecting all the non-English languages and equip Census enumerators with a card to identify the language of households visited. Learn More
- Hiring of Census Enumerators Begins: September 2019
- Census Begins: March 2020
- Census Day: April 1, 2020
- Non-response Follow-up: May-July 2020
- Apportionment Counts: Sent to the President by Dec. 31, 2020
- Redistricting Counts: Sent to the states by April 1, 2021
Complete Address List
The U.S. Census Bureau relies on a complete address list to conduct census operations. For example, this year the Bureau will send a postcard to each household with a unique identifying code that individuals will enter on its 2020 Census website. In places like Long Beach, where dense urban areas contain diverse populations and unconventional and informal housing, obtaining a complete address list can be difficult.
The most significant change for the 2020 Census is that census responses will be collected primarily online. This new design will likely exacerbate internet access and digital literacy issues among historically underrepresented populations.
Hard-to-count (HTC) groups have not participated in the census for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: socioeconomic and cultural considerations; lack of awareness and misunderstanding of the census; and, fear and lack of trust of government. Therefore, HTC groups are less likely to self-respond to the census questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. Enumerators who may go out to homes to count residents who have not completed the questionnaire.
Immigrants and their families navigate an increasingly anti-immigrant climate. Although the courts determined that the 2020 Census will not include a citizenship question, the debate to include one has stoked fear that information collected regarding an individual’s immigration status may be used later for purposes not intended by the census count such as deportation. Recent immigrant communities and communities of color are likely already discouraged from interacting with government agencies. Immigrant communities currently face uncertainty based on the current political climate pertaining to their immigration status.
Reduced Field Capacity
The 2020 Census faces severe under-funding that previous census efforts have not experienced. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates it would cost $17.8 billion for an accurate 2020 Census count. To date, the federal government has allocated $12.5 billion. This funding deficit has resulted in the U.S. Census Bureau employing cost-savings measures that will impact HTC communities’ participation in the census directly.
More than 200 languages are spoken in Los Angeles County, and the U.S. Census Bureau is only able to provide the online census questionnaire in 12 non-English languages. The non-English languages that the online Census questionnaire will be available in are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. In addition, the Census Bureau will need to provide language translation and interpretation assistance for those who do not speak those 12 languages during the census.