Frequently Asked Questions

What is the census?

The census is a self-portrait of the nation. The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government count everyone living in the country every 10 years. The tally must include people of all ages, races, and ethnic groups; all citizens and non-citizens.

Why do we do the census?

The census plays an important role in everyone’s daily life. Governments and businesses use census data to decide:

  • How much money each state gets for schools, hospitals, roads, and social services
  • Locations for new roads, transportation lines, and businesses
  • How many Congressional Representatives each state, including California, receives
  • How local and state district lines get drawn, based on population

Who gets counted in the census?

The Census Bureau counts everyone living in the United States every 10 years. The census counts everyone, including newborns and seniors, homeless people, immigrants, and people who don’t speak English. We all should do the census in March 2020.

How do I do the census?

You can do the census online, by phone, or by mail. Most people will get a letter from the Census Bureau with instructions on how to do the census online and over the phone.

The first way to do the census is online. The online census will be in 13 languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

People can do the census over the phone, too. The languages available for doing the census by phone are: Arabic, Cantonese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

Can I still complete the census by mail?

If you do not complete the census online or by phone, the Census Bureau might send you a paper form in the mail. These forms will arrive in mid-April and will be in English. You can request a paper form in Spanish from the Census Bureau.

When can I do the census?

You can do the census online, by phone, or by mail at any point between mid-March and the end of July 2020. If you don’t do the census, a Census Bureau worker may come to your home to help you complete it in person. Census workers come in May, June, or July of 2020. 

What if I don't receive a letter from the Census Bureau?

Even if you don’t get a letter from the Census Bureau, you can and should do the census!   Anyone can do the census online or by phone from mid-March to late July 2020. No PIN or ID number is necessary to do the census.

What questions are on the census?

The census asks 9 simple questions about you and the people living in your household. The census will ask you how many people live with you and if you own or rent your house. It will also ask you for your name, sex, age, birthday, ethnicity and race.

Who do I count on my census form?

If you are doing the census for your household, you should count everyone who is living there on April 1, 2020. This includes all relatives, children and babies, and roommates.

Will the census ask about my citizenship status?

The census will not ask about your or your family's citizenship or immigration status.

You don’t have to be a citizen to do the census. The census counts everyone living in the United States, so we all should do it!

Is my personal information confidential?

Your personal information is confidential . The Census Bureau is required by federal law to protect your information. The Census Bureau can only use your anonymous information for statistical purposes.

How are my census answers used?

Census data is used in all kinds of ways that help our communities. 

The federal government uses census data to see how much money San Francisco gets for social services and community programs.

Local governments use census data to plan for schools, hospitals, roads, and other services.

Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices, and stores, which create jobs.

Can I get help completing the census?

There are many organizations ready to answer your questions about the census. These organizations can also help you do the census.

You can find a San Francisco Census Help Center in your neighborhood starting in March. 

Why is the census important for San Francisco?

When everybody does the census, San Francisco gets our fair share. This means funding for local services and the political representation we deserve.

How can I get involved with the census?

The Census Bureau is hiring people to work part-time, flexible hours in San Francisco. Census jobs are temporary and will last for several weeks. You must submit your application by February 2020.

You can also get involved by sharing census information with your community.