2020 United States Census
of the United States
Seal of the U.S. Census Bureau
The Census 2020 logo
|Date taken||April 1, 2020|
The 2020 United States Census will be the twenty-fourth United States Census. National Census Day, the reference day used for the census, will be April 1, 2020. This is the first U.S. census to offer options to respond online or by phone, in addition to the option to respond on a paper form as with previous censuses.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Purpose of the Census
- 3 Major design changes for 2020
- 4 Questions on the Census and data uses
- 5 2020 Census timeline
- 6 Marketing and partnerships
- 7 Census jobs
- 8 Implementation problems
- 9 Citizenship question debate
- 10 References
- 11 External links
As required by the United States Constitution, the U.S. Census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. The 2010 United States Census was the previous census completed. Participation in the U.S. Census is required by law in Title 13 of the United States Code. As per Title 13, personally identifiable information is private and the Census Bureau will never release it. However, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will release the original census returns in 2092, if the 72-year rule is not changed before then.
Purpose of the Census
The results of the 2020 census will determine the number of seats for each state in the House of Representatives, which mirrors the number of delegates for each state in the Electoral College, for elections in 2022 to 2030.
Multiple forecasters have projected which states will gain or lose seats due to the 2020 reapportionment. According to these estimates, New York is likely to lose 1 or 2 seats; Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia are likely to lose 1 seat; California and Minnesota may lose 1 seat or remain the same; Montana may gain one seat or remain the same; Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon are likely to gain 1 seat; Florida is likely to gain 2 seats; and Texas is likely to gain 3 seats.
State and local officials use census counts to redraw boundaries for districts like congressional districts (redistricting), state legislative districts, and school districts.
Census data as the basis for federal funding distribution
Dozens of federal programs use census data to help direct funding to state and local areas. Census results help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and communities each year for roads, schools, hospitals (health clinics), emergency services, and more.
Major design changes for 2020
The 2020 Census is the first U.S. census to offer a full internet response option and the first to extensively use technology – instead of paper – to manage and conduct field work.
- Three response options: Internet, paper, phone. Ultimately, every household will get a paper form if they don’t respond online. Households in low-Internet areas will receive a paper form from the start.
- Multiple languages: In addition to English, respondents can complete the census in 12 non-English languages online or by phone. In addition, language guides, language glossaries, and language identification cards will be provided in 59 non-English languages.
- In-office address canvassing: In the 2010 and earlier censuses, census workers walked every street in America to verify addresses on the ground. The 2020 Census uses satellite and GPS imagery to identify those areas where housing is changing, and assigns workers to verify those addresses in person.
- Digital case management: Census takers will use secure smartphones to get daily assignments, navigate to interviews, communicate with supervisors and submit timesheets. Special software is designed to optimize assignments, streamline management, flag issues immediately, and reduce unnecessary follow-up visits.
- Streamlined follow-up visits using existing data sources: The 2020 Census will use existing government and third-party data to identify vacant households, to predict the best time of day to visit a particular household, and to count and provide characteristics for the people in the household after multiple attempts using existing high-quality data from trusted sources.
Questions on the Census and data uses
As required by the Census Act, the U.S. Census Bureau submitted a list of questions to Congress on March 29, 2018. Based on those questions and a subsequent executive order, the 2020 Census will ask:
- The number of people living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020.
- Used for the total count and to ensure everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place according to where they live on Census Day.
- Whether the home is owned or rented.
- Used to produce statistics about homeownership and renters for economic indicators, housing programs and informing planning decisions.
- The sex of each person in the household.
- Used to produce statistics used to plan and fund government programs, enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination.
- The age of each person in the household.
- Used to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use these data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older populations.
- The race of each person in the household.
- Used by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as under the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act.
- Whether a person in the household is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.
- Used by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those under the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
- The relationship of each person in the household to each other.
- Used to plan and fund government programs that support families, including people raising children alone, and other households that qualify for additional assistance.
2020 Census timeline
- January – March 2019: The U.S. Census Bureau opens 39 area census offices.
- June – September 2019: The Census Bureau opens the remaining 209 area census offices. The offices support and manage the census takers who work all over the country to conduct the census.
- August 2019: The Census Bureau conducts the in-field address canvassing operation. Census takers visit areas that have added or lost housing in recent years to ensure that the Census Bureau's address list is up to date. The 2020 Census will be the first modern census that doesn’t verify every address in person, on the ground. Instead, satellite imagery, U.S. Postal Service and other current records will verify most addresses, and will highlight areas where census workers need to verify in-person.
- January 2020: The Census Bureau begins counting the population in remote Alaska.
- April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, households will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. There are three options for responding: online, by mail, or by phone.
- April 2020: Census takers begin following up with households around selected colleges and universities. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews.
- May 2020: The Census Bureau begins following up with households that have not responded.
- December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the president.
Marketing and partnerships
As in previous censuses, the 2020 Census will rely on a network of trusted voices nationwide to help raise awareness, answer questions, and encourage community members to participate. Hundreds of local “complete count committees” are dedicating resources to the efforts nationwide. 
VMLY&R (formerly Young & Rubicam) secured the Integrated Communications Contract for the 2020 Census campaign in August of 2016. As the contract’s primary agency of record, VMLY&R created an integrated team for this project, Team Y&R, which includes subcontractors specializing in minority outreach, digital media, earned media and more.
In March 2019, the campaign unveiled the 2020 Census tagline: “Shape your future. START HERE.” The tagline was based on research that demonstrated which types of messages will reach and motivate all populations, including segments of the population that are historically hard to count. 
The 2020 Census will hire about 500,000 temporary workers for jobs that include census takers, address listers, office staff, partnership specialists and more. Candidates can apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs or USAjobs.gov.
- Be 18 or older, have a valid Social Security number, be a U.S. citizen, and have a valid email address.
- Complete a job application and answer applicant assessment questions.
- For many jobs, have a valid driver’s license and a vehicle, unless public transportation is readily available.
- Have access to a computer with internet and an email account to complete training. Hired census workers will be paid for training at a training pay rate.
- Pass an FBI background and fingerprint check.
- Follow strict guidelines and confidentiality laws. All persons hired must take a lifetime oath to protect the confidentiality of the data they see.
The printing company Cenveo won the $61 million contract in October 2017 to produce census forms and reminders, but went bankrupt less than four months later. The Inspector General of the U.S. Government Publishing Office said the agency failed to check the company's financial status, and improperly allowed the company to lower its bid after other bids were unsealed.
Citizenship question debate
The U.S. decennial census is used to determine federal funds, grants and support to states. The Census Bureau had included a citizenship question until 1950 when it was removed, though it continued to include a question asking about place of birth. In a January 2018 memo, an initial evaluation by Census Bureau officials advised against such a question, saying that compiling citizenship data from existing administrative records is more accurate and far less expensive. However, Wilbur Ross, secretary of the United States Department of Commerce which oversees the Census Bureau, decided the administrative approach alone would not be sufficient. The Census Bureau announced in March 2018 its plan to add a question related to citizenship for the 2020 census: "Is this person a citizen of the United States?". For the 2020 Census, Ross stated to Congress that the citizenship numbers were necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act's protection against voting discrimination. Ross falsely stated to Congress that the citizenship question was requested by the Justice Department and approved by him.
Upon the Bureau's announcement, several state and city officials criticized the decision, reiterating the concern about discouraging participation from immigrants, resulting in undercounting, and questioning the motives of Secretary Ross in adding the question. Three simultaneous separate federal lawsuits came out of this discovery, occurring at the district courts of New York, Maryland, and California. During the controversy over the census question, the Census Bureau ran a test census in June 2019 on about 480,000 households to determine what effects adding the census question would have on participation, and to prepare the Bureau, its staffing, and its counting measurements, to handle the potential lack of responses due to the citizenship question.
During these trials, documents released in May 2019 showed that the late Thomas B. Hofeller, an architect of Republican gerrymandering, had found that adding the census question could help to gerrymander maps that "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites". Hofeller later wrote the DOJ letter which justified the policy by claiming it was needed to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Following this discovery, the United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued sub peonas for the Department of Justice to provide materials related to the census question and to question both Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and United States Attorney General William Barr, seeking action to judge if they are in contempt. The Trump administration on June 12, 2019, asserted executive privilege over portions of the requested documents. As a result, the House Committee subsequently voted along party lines to hold both Ross and Barr in contempt that day. The full House voted to hold Ross and Barr in contempt on July 17, 2019, in a 230-198 vote along party lines. Despite this passage, the measure will likely not have any effect on Ross and Barr unless the Justice Department takes legal actions against Ross or Barr.
New York District Court and subsequent Supreme Court case
A lawsuit, led by New York state's attorney general Barbara Underwood and joined by seventeen other states, fifteen cities and other civil rights groups, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. During the discovery phase of the trial, new information came to light that Ross had had previous discussions with Steve Bannon before March 2018 with the intent to add the citizenship question, contradicting statements that he had made to Congress in March. This led District Judge Jesse M. Furman in September 2018 to ask that Ross clear a day in his schedule to give a deposition to the court related to the addition of the census question prior to the planned start of the trial in November.
The Trump administration filed a writ of mandamus to the United States Supreme Court, requesting that they postpone the trial, and also to defer any involvement with Ross until the start of the trial. The Supreme Court issued an order that allowed the trial United States Census Bureau v. State of New York to go forward, but agreed to postpone Ross's deposition until after the start of the trial. The Supreme Court also agreed to treat the writ of mandamus as a writ of petition, and granted certiorari to review the question raised by the government of whether a district court can request deposition of a high-ranking executive branch official on a matter related to a trial before evidence has been presented.
Judge Furman ruled in January 2019 that the addition of the citizenship question to the census was unlawful, stating that "the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census—even if it did not violate the Constitution itself—was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside." The Justice department filed a petition for writ of certiorari before judgment to have the case directly heard by the Supreme Court and bypass the normal appeal that would have been heard by the Second Circuit, given the pending deadline of June 2019 to publish the census forms. The Supreme Court accepted the petition related to Furman's ruling on February 15, 2019, a separate matter from the question of Ross's deposition, and the case's oral arguments were heard on April 23, 2019.
The Supreme Court issued its decision on June 27, 2019, rejecting the Trump administration's stated rationale for including the question. While the Court majority agreed that the question was allowable under the Enumeration Act, they also agreed with the ability of the District Court to ask Commerce for further explanation for the question under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), and that they agreed with the District Court that the answers Commerce had provided at the time appeared to be "contrived" and pretextual, leaving open the possibility that Commerce could offer a better rationale. The case was remanded back to the District Court, to give Commerce the opportunity to provide better explanation for the rationale of the question to the District Court, who would deem if that was sufficient before allowing the question on the census. The question would be allowed on the census only if these steps can be completed before the self-imposed form printing deadline. On July 7 the DOJ announced that it was replacing its entire legal team dealing with that question, but on July 9 Furman rejected the DOJ action, saying that reasons must be given for the withdrawal of each attorney and pointing out that the administration had been insisting for months that the question needed to be settled by July 1.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken steps to introduce the Hofeller evidence into the New York case but it will not be heard until late 2019, after the Census forms are to be published.
California District Court case
The second suit over the census question came in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California under Judge Richard Seeborg, raised by the state of California and several cities within it. In March 2019, Seeborg similarly found as Furman had in New York that the addition of the census question was unconstitutional and issued an injunction to block its use. The government appealed to the Ninth Circuit before the Supreme Court remanded the case.
Maryland District Court case
A similar question related to the intent of the question was raised by several immigrants-rights groups in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The case was overseen by Judge George J. Hazel in the District of Maryland. Hazel had found for the pro-immigration groups in April 2019, ruling that the addition of an immigration question to the Census was unconstitutional. The government issued its appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The new Hofeller evidence was presented to Hazel as the case was being heard on appeal during June 2019 at the Fourth Circuit. Hazel stated that the new evidence "raises a substantial issue"  On June 25, 2019, the Fourth Circuit remanded the case back to Hazel's District Court with the newly provided evidence, and to review if the additional evidence showed discriminatory intent. Should Hazel find such intent, it would be possible for him to place an injunction on the addition of the census question during a new discovery phase, regardless of the Supreme Court decision in Department of Commerce v. New York. This action would effectively render the question moot since the Census forms would need to be published at this point without the citizenship question to meet the mailing deadlines.
President Trump, after the Supreme Court decision in Department of Commerce was announced, stated his intent to find a way to delay the census as long as possible so that the judicial matter could be resolved. On July 2, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the citizenship question would not be included in the census, and the Commerce Department began printing census forms without a citizenship question. However, the next day, Trump insisted that his administration was "absolutely moving forward" with the citizenship question, and the Justice Department confirmed in court that it had been instructed to find a legal way to include it in the census.
In response to an order from Judge Hazel, the Justice Department affirmed on July 5, 2019 that it will be seeking a route to add the citizenship question to the census, though at the time did not know which route it would take. Hazel had ordered this response as, if the Department was intending to add the question, he could begin determining a schedule in coordination with Judge Furman in the New York court for further proceedings and discovery in both the New York and Maryland lawsuits. On July 7 the DOJ announced its intention to replace its entire legal team on the case, but Furman allowed the DOJ to dismiss only two of its eleven attorneys, writing in the July 9 rejection that the DOJ had "provide[d] no reasons, let alone 'satisfactory reasons,' for the substitution of counsel". Furman pointed out that the case had already run past the DOJ's own previously requested deadline of July 1 and that replacing counsel would cause further delays.
Separate from the events in the courts, Trump has stated he also considered using an executive order to place the citizenship question on the census. However, on July 11 he issued an executive order directing the Department of Commerce to obtain citizenship data from other federal agencies rather than via the census. He added that "we are not backing down in our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population" and that data from other federal agencies would be "far more accurate" than a census question. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that although the DOJ had agreed with Ross's plan to include the question, "Today’s Executive Order represents an alternative path to collecting the best citizenship data now available, which is vital for informed policymaking and numerous other reasons. Accordingly, the Department will promptly inform the courts that the Government will not include a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census.”
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