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2020 Census is in full swing – why you should want to be counted

The goal of the US 2020 Census is to count every person living in the United States. Last month, March, letters were mailed to all residential addresses inviting a response using the online system. Areas less likely to respond online would receive a paper questionnaire with their invitation but could still choose to respond online.

Performing a census in the US goes back to 1790 and there has been a census taken every 10 years since.

Some personal information has been typically collected during each census including

  • Name
  • Age at a certain point in time
  • State or country of birth
  • Parents’ birthplace(s)
  • Year of immigration (if relevant)
  • Street address
  • Marriage status and years of marriage (if relevant)
  • Occupation(s)

For that reason, there is what is called the “72-year rule.” It states (links to PDF) the U.S. government will not release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency except for the individual or their heirs until 72 years after the information was collected for the decennial census.

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City, county and state governments and tax districts are very interested in citizen participation in the census because the results often determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding will be distributed over the next decade. If participation is low and their jurisdictions end up under-represented in the data, federal funding may be inadequate to meet the needs of the population.

Examples provided on the US Census Bureau website include:

Census results influence highway planning and construction, as well as grants for buses, subways, and other public transit systems.

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Census results help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education.

You do not need to wait for a request to respond to the Census. Households are encouraged to complete an online form, or do so by phone or by mail. Visit my2020census.gov to begin regardless of the choice.

Census Bureau officials say that, from May 27th to August 14th, census takers will be out to interview households that haven’t responded yet to the 2020 Census in an effort to ensure everyone is counted.

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