2020 Census FAQ

“Get Out The Count” - RICEngaged 2020 Census


  • The Census is conducted every ten years in the United States. 
  • Mandated under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Census provides data necessary to determine how people will be represented in state and federal government.
  • The purpose of the Census is to get an understanding of the population within the United States. 
  • The framers of the Constitution also meant for the Census to provide a form of political empowerment of the people over government.

2020 Census Basics

Why the Census Matters

The number of residents in states determines congressional representation. The data gathered from the Census is used to redraw Congressional and state legislative districts, school districts, and voting precincts. Census data also guides decisions on how to distribute funding by the federal government. 

A complete count is important because it will guide decisions about our campus voting precinct, in addition to other decisions like bus routes and attracting businesses to the area. Faculty and students also use census data in research, so a complete count is important for using evidence and drawing accurate conclusions.

Quick Facts (For Students)

  • 2020 is the first time households can complete the Census online.
  • You are counted in the location you spend majority of your time. Even if you live with your guardians during holidays and breaks, you will be counted at Rice.
  • Students who live in residence halls are part of what the Census Bureau calls “Group Quarters” (meaning your residence is owned or managed by an outside entity that provides housing and/or resources to residents).

Where You Count (For Students)

ON CAMPUS : If you live in on-campus student housing like residence halls, off-campus halls, or other student housing facilities that are owned, leased, or managed by Rice University, Rice will include you in “Group quarters.” U.S. Census Bureau employees will work with representatives from your building to ensure that you are counted. You may be asked to complete an individual census form. Later more information will be provided to you. Stay tuned. Also, tell your guardians not to count you in their household.

OFF CAMPUS : If you live in off-campus housing that is not owned, leased, or managed by Rice University, such as a private house that you share with other students or a privately owned apartment, you can respond online, by phone, or by mail beginning in mid-March 2020. You will get a postcard in the mail around March 2020 inviting you to fill out the Census form. Up to five invitations will be mailed. Talk to your roommates about the Census and make sure everyone in your unit is counted. It’s important that you’re counted and everyone is counted.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS : If you’re an international student studying in the U.S. this spring, you will be counted in the Census. The same rules apply.

COMMUTER : If you’re a commuter you are counted where you live. If you live with a guardian, they count you. If you live on your own, please fill out the form where you live!

STUDY ABROAD : If you are studying abroad in Spring of 2020 you will NOT be counted in the 2020 Census. Don’t fill it out, don’t worry about it, see you in 2030.

2020 Census Jobs (For Students, Faculty, and Staff)

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting people who are interested in temporary work administering the 2020 Census. Census takers play a foundational role in our democracy. 

Census takers must be U.S. citizens, have a valid Social Security number, be registered with the Selective Service System, be able to pass a background check, and, in most cases, have a vehicle and a driver’s license. Interested individuals can apply for a 2020 Census job by visiting 2020census.gov/jobs and completing an online application. 

The process takes about 30 minutes and will include assessment questions about the applicant's education, work history, and other experiences. The website also has a page on Census job FAQs https://2020census.gov/en/jobs/job-details.html. If your question is not listed within the FAQs, please call 1-855-JOB-2020 (1-855-562-2020) and select 1 for technical help, 2 for more information about our jobs, or 3 to reach a local census office. You may also use the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 for TTY/ASCII.

FAQ (For Faculty and Staff)

Q. When is Census 2020?

A: Census Day is April 1, 2020 but the online tool will start accepting responses in mid-March. Some other programs will be starting in March as well.

Q. How can I respond to the Census?

A. In 2020 you can respond to the census online (using a computer or a smart phone), over the telephone, or by submitting a paper form. In March 2020, you will receive an invitation letter to complete the Census.

Q. What questions are asked on the Census?

A. The Census form asks 10 questions about each person in a household:

  1. Name
  2. Phone Number
  3. Age and Birth Date
  4. Sex
  5. Hispanic Origin
  6. Race
  7. Relationship to Householder
  8. Household Tenure/Ownership
  9. Number of Persons in Household
  10. Additional Residence Location

The Census Bureau estimates that it will take ten minutes per person in a household to complete the Census form.

Q. What questions will not be on the Census form?

  1. Your full Social Security number
  2. Money or donations
  3. Anything on behalf of a political party
  4. Your full bank or credit card account numbers
  5. Your mother’s maiden name

Q. Will a Census worker come to my door?

A. In most cases, no. The Census Bureau will send out multiple notices encouraging people to submit their Census form online, via telephone, or through the mail. Some Census Bureau mailings will include the Census form. June 2020 through July 2020 Census takers go door to door to count people. They will only visit those addresses that did not respond to a previous mailing. Census takers will provide proof that they are official government personnel. To avoid Census takers knock on your door, take the Census early.

Q. How will I know that someone is from the Census Bureau?

A. All Census workers carry official government badges with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, an expiration date, and marked with their name. You can ask them for a picture ID from another source to confirm their identity. If you are still not certain about an enumerator’s identity, you can call the Denver Regional Census Center at *1-800-852-6159* (toll-free) to confirm that an individual is employed by the Census Bureau. Denver Regional Office covers the area of Texas.

Q. Who should be counted?

A. All residents living at an address as of April 1, 2020 should be counted. This includes family members, all children born on or before April 1, 2020, grandparents, and other, non-related persons living at an address.

Q. What about people living in group quarters?

A. People living in prisons, people living in shelters, people in the military, or people living in other group quarters will be counted where they live.

Q. Will the Census form be available in multiple languages?

A. Yes. You can respond online in English and in 12 additional languages: Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. The online questionnaire conforms with the latest web accessibility guidelines. There will also be a video in American Sign Language to guide you through responding online. 

The Census Bureau will also make help available by phone in those same languages. You can respond by phone in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese.

The paper form can be completed in English or Spanish. The Census Bureau will provide video and print language guides, language glossaries, and language identification cards in a total of 59 non-English languages.

Q. Do I have to enter a census ID number?

A. The census invitation card will contain a census ID number linked to the address of your housing unit. The Census form will ask you to enter the census ID number or your address. You can enter either to verify your location or ensure that no one else has completed your Census form.

Q. What happens to my responses? Are my census responses private?

A: The Census Bureau takes responsibility to protect your information very seriously. The Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015 ensures that your data is protected from cybersecurity risks. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify you or your household. By law, the Census Bureau can use your responses only to produce statistics. If you respond online, all web data submissions are encrypted in order to protect your privacy. If you respond using a paper questionnaire, your completed questionnaire will be destroyed after processing. The Census Bureau releases aggregated data, i.e., information about the people living in a defined area, not individual person level data. The form does not ask for your Social Security number, bank account information or financial assets. Name and address are asked only to ensure that each person is counted once where they live.

Q. Will my individual responses be reported to another government agency?

A: No. Your information is completely confidential and protected by law and cannot be shared with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration officials. Federal law (U.S. Code Title 13, Section 9) protects your privacy and keeps your answers safe and secure. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau can use your responses only to produce statistics.

Q. Can I help a neighbor complete their Census form?

A: A key principle for the 2020 Census is the Census Bureau’s obligation to protect the confidentiality of the public’s answers to the census. Helping a person who is not part of your household complete their Census form violates this promise of confidentiality. You can help your neighbors connect to the Census Bureau online page or help them call the census toll-free number listed on their census invitation letter or postcard. However, responses to the census should be kept confidential.

Q. What if I choose not to answer a question?

A: The accuracy of the census depends on everyone providing accurate answers to all of the questions on the Census form. If you decide not to answer a question the Census Bureau may follow up with you as part of its quality control process. The Census Bureau's Nonresponse Follow Up program (NRFU) will send a census enumerator out to addresses that have not submitted a Census form, but there are no plans to contact all addresses that skip questions.

Q. When will the Census counts be released?

A: Counts for reapportionment must be delivered to the President of the United States by December 31, 2020. Counts will be released to the states for redistricting purposes by April 1, 2021. More detailed counts will be released beginning in 2022.

Q. Will working for the Census Bureau impact my SNAP or TANF benefits?

A: Working as a Census Enumerator will not impact your benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). Wages from part-time employment by the Census Bureau are considered "short-term" employment.

Q. How do I apply Census job? 

A. You can be a 2020 Census Taker, support your community, and earn extra money. Interested individuals can apply for a 2020 Census job by visiting 2020census.gov/jobs and completing an online application. The process takes about 30 minutes and will include assessment questions about the applicant's education, work history, and other experiences. The website also has a page on Census job FAQs.

Q. What if I have additional questions?

A: If you have additional questions, please call the Regional Census Center at 1-800-852-6159 (toll-free), FAX: (303) 969-6777, TDD: (303) 969-6767, E-mail: Denver.Regional.Office@census.gov, or visit https://www.census.gov/about/regions/denver.html. Denver Regional Office covers the area of Texas.

In addition, you can contact the U.S. Census Bureau for support.
Official 2020 Census website: https://2020census.gov

For general questions: Visit U.S. Census Bureau’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page https://2020census.gov/en/help.html, or call 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282.

For information on services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing: Call the TTY number at 800-877-8339 to reach the Federal Relay Service.

[These information sheets are compiled and provided by Fondren Library Kelley Center for Government Information, govhelp@rice.edu, 713-348-5483; Center for Civic Leadership, ccl@rice.edu, 713-348-2223; and Rice University Office of Public Affairs, 713-348-0000.]


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Center for Civic Leadership
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6100 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005


Phone: 713-348-2223
Fax: 713-348-5885
Email: ccl@rice.edu


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