FAQ

How are students temporarily displaced by COVID-19 supposed to fill out the Census?

All college students have been instructed to fill out the Census based on where they WOULD’VE lived on April 1st.

If you lived on-campus before being displaced, your college has you covered and you will be counted through their administration.

If you lived off-campus before being displaced, please fill out the census with that address. This is important for accurate data to support the allocation of funds to your university. If your family already included you on their census form, you may fill out the census again individually on your own. The census has a complex formula to account for double counting.

For additional information, please check out the following resources:

  1. Updates and information from UIC: https://today.uic.edu/coronavirus
  2. Census Bureau Statement on Modifying 2020 Census Operations to Make Sure College Students are Counted:
    https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2020/modifying-2020-operations-for-counting-college-students.html

How has COVID-19 impacted the census process?

The Census Bureau released significant adjustments to the Census operations timeline. You can find the official press release here as well as their Guide on the COVID-19 operations adjustments which provides an overview on all the new timelines here. Some new key dates pertinent to higher education are listed below, keeping in mind though that the apportionment and redistricting count extensions have to be approved by Congress and that hasn’t happened yet.

  • Census is open until October 31, 2020
  • Group Quarters (GQ) Enumeration is happening currently through September 3, 2020 – this means students being counted who were living in dorms on campus.
  • Nonresponse Followup (NRFU) from August 11, 2020 through October 31, 2020 – this means census workers going door to door
  • Apportionment Counts presented to the President by April 30, 2021
  • Redistricting Counts to States by July 31, 2021

What questions are asked on the census form?

  1. How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020. This will help us count the entire U.S. population and ensure that we count people according to where they live on Census Day.
  2. Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help us produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. They also help in administering housing programs and informing planning decisions.
  3. About the sex of each person in your home. This allows us to create statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. This data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination.
  4. About the age of each person in your home. The U.S. Census Bureau creates statistics to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use this data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older adults.
  5. About the race of each person in your home. This allows us to create statistics about race and to provide other statistics by racial groups. This data helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  6. About whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This is needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  7. About the relationship of each person in your home. This allows the Census Bureau to create estimates about families, households, and other groups. Relationship data is used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone.

Source: U.S. Census 2020. https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html 

What does the census process look like? What is the general timeline?

January–September 2019: The U.S. Census Bureau opens 248 area census offices across the country. These offices support and manage the census takers who work all over the country to conduct the census.

August 2019: Census takers begin visiting areas that have experienced a lot of change and growth to ensure that the Census Bureau’s address list is up to date. This is called address canvassing, and it helps to ensure that everyone receives an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census.

January 2020: The Census Bureau begins counting the population in remote Alaska.

April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

April 2020: Census takers begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.

May 2020: The Census Bureau begins visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.

December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

March 31, 2021: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2020. https://2020census.gov/en/important-dates.html

How is my data protected by the U.S. Census Bureau?

The protection of your data could be compared to that of complex nuclear security. The data is coded and locked under cyber-security. The data must be transferred through a large chain while being approved and checked at each stage along the way. It is held in high-tech security and remains confidential. It will never be shared based on one person’s decision. The following information was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau’s website:

Secure Technology:

Secure systems design: Working with industry partners, we have designed our systems with many layers of security to defend against and neutralize cyber threats.

Secure data collection: We have developed and maintain a secure internet connection for collecting your information.

Data encrypted: Your data is encrypted during data collection and then stored on our private, internal Census Bureau network, which is isolated from the Internet by firewalls and other security measures.

Limited access: Our data systems are secured by two-factor authentication.

Information Defense: 

Staying ahead of threats: We work with industry leaders and intelligence partners to stay ahead of the latest cyber threats.

Continuous monitoring: We actively monitor all digital traffic and continuously inspect the use of our IT systems to make sure private information stays secure.

Ensuring quick response: We test our systems and conduct ongoing training for our cyber experts to make sure they are ready and able to detect any threats and can respond immediately. Safeguards to Protect Your Identity:

Statistical purposes only: We do not identify individuals in the data we publish. We only publish statistics.

Confidentiality assurance: Our policies and statistical safeguards help us ensure the confidentiality of your information.

Confidentiality standards: Our Disclosure Review Board verifies that any data product we release meets our confidentiality standards.

Privacy and confidentiality laws: By law, every person who works with confidential information is sworn for life to keep that information confidential.

Remove identifiable information: We remove individuals’ names and other personal identifiers from our data products when we produce statistics.

We protect your information: We do not publish any information that could personally identify you, your household, or your business.

The 2020 Census is the first year anywhere to use modern mathematically guaranteed privacy safeguards to protect respondents to privacy threats (also known as differential privacy). (https://youtu.be/pT19VwBAqKA)

Helpful Sources:

Can ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) access census information?

No. All government agencies and courts cannot access direct personal information of respondents to the census. They are held to the same standard of confidentiality as every other entity. It is the U.S. Census Bureau’s legal responsibility to protect all respondent’s information.

How are response rates and the Hard-to-Count (HTC) populations estimated?

Hard-to-Count (HTC) populations are measured by converging several different forms of data together.

  1. Low Mail Return Rate:The primary data the U.S. Census Bureau uses to determine HTC areas is flagging census tracts that had a mail return rate of 73% or less in the 2010 census. This self-response rate represents the percent of occupied housing units whose residents answered the census in the initial self-response stage of the count. The census gathers data from other sources (such as the U.S. postal service) and on-the- ground neighborhood mapping to determine which units are vacant and occupied, and then calculate the response rate per census tract.
  2. Populations that have Historically been Hard-to-Count: Additionally, current HTC populations are estimated by historically undercounted populations that did not respond to the census, such as young children, people of color, rural residents, and low-income households. Current demographic data from the American Community Survey from 2013-2017 provides information to locate which areas have a higher percent of populations historically characterized as hard-to-count. These communities will need more focus and resources to ensure an accurate count.
  3. Low Internet Accessibility: Uniquely, the 2020 census will be the first time the form will be offered online from any device. Those this may make the process easier for some populations, it will make it difficult for others. Therefore, another metric for measuring HTC populations is households with little to no accessibility to the internet. This data is estimated by the most recent American Community Survey from 2013-2017.

Source: Census 2020 Hard to Count Map: https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/?latlng=40.00000,- 98.09000&z=4&layers=major roads,counties&infotab=info-internet&modal=info-about

Can you fill out the Census in a language other than English?

  • The written form is offered in Spanish and English.
  • People can also respond to census questions online or over the phone in 13 different languages: Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and English
  • Additionally, The U.S. Census Bureau offers glossaries and other information in a total of 59 languages, including Lithuanian, Somali and American Sign Language — all of them spoken most commonly in more than 2,000 households.

Sources:

Prior, Ryan. “US census forms will be online in 7 new languages, from Arabic to Tagalog.” April 5, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/03/us/us-census-languages-trnd/index.html. Accessed November 11, 2019.

Fontenot, Albert E. Jr. “2020 CENSUS PROGRAM MEMORANDUM SERIES: 2018.06:2020 Census Non-English Language Support.” U.S. Census Bureau. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/memo-series/2020-memo-2018_06.pdf . Accessed November 1, 2019.