- Posted by Barrington Hills
- On January 2, 2020
The Government Will Try to Count the Entire U.S. Population This Year: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Census
By Elvia Malagón | Chicago Tribune | January 2, 2020
You might have seen the various slogans: “Everyone Counts!” “Be Counted.” “Shape Your Future.”
It’s all part of a multipronged approach from federal, state and local entities trying to ensure that as many people as possible take part in the 2020 census — an enumeration of the country’s population that takes place every 10 years.
For the first time, households will be able to participate in the federal questionnaire by using their phone, tablet or computer.
The stakes for states like Illinois to have accurate counts are high because the data gathered is tied to political power and federal money. Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 census:
Why is the census being done?
The U.S. Constitution mandates a count of the entire population to take place every decade. The process is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the federal Department of Commerce. The data gathered from the decennial count is used to determine the number of representatives each state will have in Congress. It’s also used to redistrict political maps, and the amount each state gets from various federal funding programs is tied to its census-determined population.
Counting everyone is of particular concern in Illinois, which has seen a population decline for the sixth year in a row and has lost more residents since 2010 than any other state. That’s accordingly to census population data that was gathered in between the big decennial counts and released Monday.
When can I start filling out the census?
April 1 marks Census Day, but the work to count the population will start much sooner.
The U.S. Census Bureau will begin counting as soon as this month in remote parts of Alaska, and households across the country will start receiving mail by March 12 from the U.S. Census Bureau, giving them instructions on how to respond to the questionnaire.
In Illinois, the mailings will come days just before the state’s March 17 primary election, so make sure they don’t get lost in campaign material that may be cluttering local mailboxes.
From March 16 to March 24, the bureau will send a reminder about the census, said Ellisa Johnson, the Chicago deputy regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau. Another wave of mailings from the bureau will go out from March 26 to April 3 for households that still have not completed the questionnaire. Then on April 8 to April 16, the bureau will send out paper forms to households that by this point haven’t participated on their own, she said.
What questions will the government ask?
Each household — including people living together in apartments or mobile homes — will have to fill out a questionnaire that will include less than a dozen questions.
The questionnaire, which can be completed online, by phone or in paper form by mail, will ask how many people are living in the household, what type of property it is and each resident’s name, gender, age on April 1, race and if the person is of Latino origin.
If more than one person lives in the household, the bureau asks for a description of how each resident is related to the person filling out the form. For example, there are options for roommates, same-sex partners or siblings.
The federal agency will not ask for a person’s Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number, immigration status or for donations.
Will the 2020 census include a question about citizenship?
The census questionnaire will not include a controversial inquiry about a person’s immigration or citizenship status. The U.S. Department of Commerce sought to include the question following a request from the U.S. Department of Justice. But the U.S. Supreme Court this summer blocked the question from appearing on the forms.
Advocates encourage everyone, regardless of immigration status, to participate in the census.
Will a census taker come to my house?
If a household’s residents haven’t responded to the questionnaire on their own by April, census workers will start knocking on doors by May, according to the bureau. Before then, census workers will visit group living quarters such as college campuses and senior centers.
Census workers visiting homes should have with them a valid identification badge with their photo and a watermark indicating it was issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Anyone who is still unsure if the person is really a census worker can call 800-923-8282 to confirm.
Who will have access to the information from my questionnaire?
Early in American history — the first census took place in 1790 — the results were posted in public, but that practice changed through the centuries. The Census Bureau is now bound by a code called Title 13, which outlines protections for the information collected. Personal information “is never published,” the agency stated on its website, and “cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.”
What is at stake for Illinois?
The state could lose political muscle and federal funds that are tied to the outcomes of decennial counts. Experts say Illinois is at risk of losing one or even two congressional seats.
Nationwide, it’s estimated that $1.5 trillion in federal programs — ranging from food assistance to state wildlife grants — are all tied to data gathered during the decennial census count, according to an analysis by the George Washington University’s Institute on Public Policy.
An earlier analysis from the Institute on Public Policy estimated that $34 billion from federal programs tied to census figures trickles down to Illinois.
How will the bureau count the homeless population?
The U.S. Census Bureau will work closely with so-called complete count commissions that are headed by local governments and community groups to figure out what shelters, soup kitchens and areas people experiencing homelessness are staying at, Johnson said. The effort to count these people will happen from March 30 to April 1.
Can I get a job with the 2020 census?
In Illinois, the U.S. Census Bureau is seeking to recruit more than 80,000 workers, Johnson said. As of late December, the bureau estimates it’s nearly halfway to that goal. In Chicago, the agency wants to recruit 20,600 workers. But the bureau doesn’t yet know how many of those recruits will get part-time jobs because that depends on how many people fill out the census questionnaire on their own. The higher that return, the fewer workers will be needed to knock on doors for follow-up.
The bureau recently increased its pay range to $17.50 to $29.50 an hour across the state. The move was done to draw a larger pool of applicants, especially because of the low unemployment numbers in the Midwest, Johnson said.
Anyone receiving federal benefits can also apply without the extra income changing their eligibility for the assistance, Johnson said. Someone receiving federal assistance who is hired by the bureau will have to contact the agency that provides the benefits to receive a waiver, Johnson said. More information can be found at 2020Census.gov/jobs.