2020 US Census materials.

It’s 2020 Census Time!

As more people in the United States hunker down at home in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, we’ll be looking for things to do. One easy thing you can do that will also help our democracy is to fill out the 2020 Census. The census, which is taken every ten years, helps determine how many Representatives serve your state and how federal funding is allocated. It also provides an important resource for future historians and family history researchers.

2020 US Census materials.
2020 US Census materials.

Likely, you’ve already received your census form and set it aside. Maybe it is sitting on the dining room table, waiting for you. (That’s where mine has been.)

You may have also received a second follow-up form. This one provides Your Census ID, which allows you to respond to the census online. This is the first time people can fill out the census online, so go ahead and take advantage of the service if you’re comfortable with it and have internet access. Otherwise, fill in your paper version and send it back in the postage-paid envelope.

Because the census is meant to count everyone living in the United States at this point in time, you do not have to be a citizen to fill it out and there are no citizenship questions on the form. There are, however, more detailed questions related to racial and ethnic identity, including the ability to identify in more than one category. This will allow people to provide a more complex picture of their identities.

The 2020 Census also has more detailed choices on how people in the household are related to Person 1, the is a person who owns or pays rent on the residence. Options include:

  • Opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse
  • Opposite-sex unmarried partner
  • Same-sex husband/wife/spouse
  • Same-sex unmarried partner
  • Biological son or daughter
  • Adopted son or daughter
  • Stepson or stepdaughter
  • Brother or sister
  • Father or mother
  • Grandchild
  • Parent-in-law
  • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law
  • Other relative
  • Roommate or housemate
  • Foster child
  • Other nonrelative

The one identity not given as an option on this census is transgender, but the range of identities listed is much more detailed than in previous censuses.

Filling out the census is required by law, so if you don’t fill out the paper questionnaire or the online form, a census taker will be required to visit your residence to gather the information. Because we are doing our best to keep a physical distance from people during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll want to avoid putting people at risk by getting your census filled out and returned by APRIL 1, 2020. (And that’s no foolin’.)

Do your civic and historical duty by filling out your 2020 Census.

Multi-lingual instructions for accessing the 2020 Census online.
Multi-lingual instructions for accessing the 2020 Census online.

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