Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a census?

A census is an official count and survey of a population. Once a decade, the United States conducts a census in an effort to systematically count the population and gather information such as age, race, and more.

When is the next census?

The first census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then. The next census will be in the year 2020.

What is the difference between a census and a sampling?

A census attempts to survey an entire population, whereas a sampling only surveys a portion of the population. The U.S. Census Bureau uses sampling in conjunction with the decennial census program to obtain more detailed information from a random sample of the population.

What is the Census Bureau?

The United States Census Bureau is an agency of the federal government responsible for providing data about the U.S. people and the economy. The data collected by the Census Bureau via censuses and surveys are critical in the decision-making processes for national and local governments, businesses, and citizens.

What is the purpose of the census?

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a headcount every 10 years of everyone residing in the United States: in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens, and noncitizens. The population totals from the 2020 Census will determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative districts. The U.S. Census Bureau must submit state population totals to the President of the United States by December 31, 2020. The totals also affect funding in your community, and data collected in the census help inform decision makers how your community is changing.

Why is the census important?

The 2020 Census is important because it is used to determine the distribution of congressional seats for Kansas as well as the distribution of more than $6 billion in federal funds. This includes funding for local, state, and tribal communities each year. The census is also used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts.

Your civic engagement in the 2020 Census is your way of saying you and your community count.

What happens if you don’t answer the census?

Participation in the census is required by law. If you don’t answer the census, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up with you in person to collect your responses.

Are my answers safe and secure?

Just like your participation is required by law, so is the protection of your responses.

The Census Bureau collects data for statistical purposes only. They combine your responses with information from other households or businesses to produce statistics, which never identify your household, any person in your household, or business. Your information is CONFIDENTIAL. They never identify you individually. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information and violating this law is a crime with severe penalties. In addition, other federal laws, including the Confidential Statistical Efficiency Act and the Privacy Act reinforce these protections. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. It is against the law to disclose or publish any of the following information: names; addresses including GPS coordinates: social security numbers; or telephone numbers.

Why doesn’t the Census only count citizens?

The framers used the term “citizen” 11 times in the Constitution, but in Article 1, Section 2 (3), they expressly said that the census is an enumeration of persons.1 The 14th Amendment of the Constitution repeats this point, stating: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”2,3 What this means is that in accordance to the United States Constitution, the U.S. Census counts everyone including citizens, non-citizen legal residents, non-citizen long-term visitors, illegal immigrants and prisoners in jails and penitentiaries.

  1. Full text: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.2 The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.” 
  2. Full text: 2: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,15 and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.” 
  3. “Indians not taxed” was negated by enactment of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which granted full citizenship to all indigenous peoples of the United States.

What questions are on the census?

The questions on the 2020 Census will request information regarding the number of people residing in your household, as well as information regarding resident age, race, and sex. The U.S. Census Bureau has provided a sample copy of the 2020 Census questionnaire on their official website.

Why does the Census Bureau ask the questions they do?

The Census Bureau asks the questions they do on the surveys because of federal needs and for community benefits. The data the Census Bureau collects helps determine how more than $800 billion dollars of federal funding annually is spent on infrastructure and services. Your answers help federal, state and local leaders make decisions about: schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, bridges, job training centers, and many other projects that affect your community.

I thought that the census was only 10 minutes, 10 questions. Why might I also be getting something called the American Community Survey?

Launched in 2005, the American Community Survey (ACS) is part of the decennial census program and is essentially what used to be the census long form. The ACS collects more detailed information on housing, population, and the economy. ACS data are collected continuously throughout the year and throughout the decade from a sample (fraction) of the population (about 3 million addresses annually). Like the 2020 Census, participation in the ACS is mandatory by law and the American public’s participation is vital to provide data that impacts policy decisions on the local, state, and federal level.

How does the U.S. Census Bureau help me identify fraudulent activity and scams?

The Census Bureau will never ask for:

  • A full social security number 
  • Money or donations 
  • Anything on behalf of a political party 
  • Your full bank or credit card account numbers 

If you are visited by someone from the United States Census Bureau, here are some recognition tips to assure the validity of the field representative. The field representative: 

  • must present an ID Badge which contains: photograph of field representative, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date. 
  • will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the regional office phone number for verification, if asked. 
  • will provide you with a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on U.S. Census Bureau letterhead. 
  • may be carrying a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.

When does the 2020 Census start?

In mid-March begin looking for a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau in your residential mailbox. By April 1, 2020, all homes will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will be able to respond for your home by phone, online, or mail. You can view other important 2020 Census dates by visiting the official U.S. Census Bureau website.

What if I am away from my residence on April 1, 2020?

People away from their usual residence on Census Day, such as on a vacation or a business trip, visiting, traveling outside the U.S., or working elsewhere without a usual residence there (for example, as a truck driver or traveling salesperson) are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

What if I have more than one residence or no residence on April 1, 2020?

People who live at two or more residences (during the week, month, or year), such as people who travel seasonally between residences (for example, snowbirds or children in joint custody) are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If usual residence cannot be determined, they are counted at the residence where they are staying on Thursday, April 1, 2020 (Census Day). College students living away from their parental home while attending college in the U.S. (living either on-campus or off-campus) are counted at the on-campus or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time. Those staying in shelter or living outdoors are counted where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

When will the results from the census be available?

The nation should see the very first results from the 2020 Census in the form of total population counts for the nation and each state in late 2020 or early 2021. In 2021 each state receives local-level 2020 Census data on race and the voting age population. As required by law, the Census Bureau will provide these key demographic data to the states (on a state-by-state basis), so the state governments can redraw the boundaries of their U.S. Congressional and state legislative districts. Public Law 94-171 requires that the redistricting data must be delivered to state officials responsible for legislative redistricting within one year of Census day or no later than April 1, 2021.

What if I still have questions or concerns?

As we get closer to Census 2020, there will be more FAQs detailing the process of the upcoming count. Contact Kansas Census organizers with additional questions.