Among everything else, 2020 is a U.S. federal Census year. Have you completed the Census yet? It’s easy, safe, and important to be counted!
A census gathers information about a population. The United States Census, which has occurred every ten years since 1790, gathers information for the express purpose of calculating how a state is represented in the House of Representatives, and the proportion of federal tax income distributed to each state. At a local level, census data is used to plan for infrastructure and services like roads, hospitals, public assistance, schools, and libraries.
Federal law requires that all people living in the United States be counted. Fortunately, most people have been able to safely submit their information online this year. Those folks who haven’t yet completed the Census may have received a personal visit from a local enumerator, and they can expect repeated visits until their information is recorded.
When I spoke to a Bath enumerator, she explained how she no longer has access to the information her neighbors have provided after she has filled out and submitted the electronic census form through a secure iPhone. She commented that this year’s census questions are less invasive than some other years. For example, citizenship and immigration status are not part of the 2020 census.
The American Community Survey, also administered by the Census Bureau, supplements census data by asking more in-depth questions, chiefly about demographics, employment, and housing, and questions about place of birth and citizenship are included in the American Community Survey. The American Community survey has been distributed to 3.5 million randomly-selected addresses annually since 2010.
Aside from the immediate benefits of an accurate population count, census data is enormously helpful to students, researchers, and genealogists. It can be found in two of our favorite online databases: Ancestry Library Edition and Data.Census.gov (formerly American Fact Finder).
The Census Bureau has put together activities and lesson plans designed to teach kids about the Census through a variety of approaches. Find out more here.
In response to misinformation about the purpose and use of Census data, the American Library Association has provided the following facts about this year’s census: