Census 101

What is the Census?

Once a decade, America comes together to participate in the decennial census, creating national awareness of the census and statistics. This census provides the basis for reapportioning Congressional seats, redistricting, and distributing billions of dollars in federal funding to support your state, county, and community's vital programs.

The Census Bureau collects information through the decennial census, the American Community Survey, the economic census, and many other surveys. Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. People in your community use Census Bureau data in all kinds of ways, such as these:

  • Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.
  • Businesses use the data to build factories, offices and stores, and these create jobs.
  • Local government officials use the data to ensure public safety and plan new schools and hospitals.
  • Community planners and city planners use the data to plan new homes and improve neighborhoods.

2020 Census form with American flag behind it

Laws about Census

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a headcount every 10 years of everyone residing in the United States. This includes people of all ages, races, and ethnic groups, to include citizens and noncitizens. The first census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then.

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 help determine federal and state money spent in your community, and data collected in the census help inform governmental, business, and nonprofit decision makers on how your community is changing in order to plan for the future.

Confidentiality and Privacy

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.

2020 Census Confidentiality Fact Sheet

Hoja de datos de confidencialidad del Censo 2020


What You Should Know

Everyone counts.

The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place.

It's about fair representation.

Every 10 years, the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets.

It's in the Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years. The census covers the entire country and everyone living here. The first census was in 1790.

Your data are confidential.

Federal law protects your census responses. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics. By law we cannot share your information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies, or allow it to be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits.

It's about redistricting.

After each census, state officials use the results to redraw the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts, adapting to population shifts.

It means $675 billion.

Census data determine how more than $675 billion are spent, supporting your state, county and community's vital programs.