Frequently Asked Questions

What is the census all about?

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a population count of everyone in the United States. The 2020 census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories once, only once, and in the right place.

The census is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. Data from the census provide the basis for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to communities across the country to support vital programs impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care, and public policy. The census results also are used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts and accurately determine the number of congressional seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Why is it important to me?

Responding to the census is not only your civic duty it also affects the amount of funding your community receives, how your community plans for the future, and your representation in government. Specifically, data from the 2020 census will be used to:

  • Decide where money goes for things like roads, schools, hospitals, and fire departments.

  • Plan new homes and businesses and improve neighborhoods.

  • Determine how many people we get to elect to Congress to represent Wisconsin and is used to draw the lines for State and local elected official's districts. THIS census might determine if we lose a seat in Congress in the future.

When will I complete the census?

Beginning in mid-March 2020, people will receive a notice in the mail to complete the census. Once you receive it, you can respond online. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin following up in person with households that haven't yet responded to the census.

How can I respond?

In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online. But you can still respond by phone or mail if you prefer. Responding should take less time than it takes to finish your morning coffee. On March 12, 2020, the Federal Census Bureau will publish the link to respond online.

Am I required to respond to the census?

Yes. All people living in the United States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are required by law to be counted in the 2020 census.

Where should I be counted?

At the residence where you live and sleep most of the time.

People who live at two or more residences are counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. For example, college students living away from their parental home while attending college in the U.S. (living either on-campus or off-campus) are counted at the on-campus or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

Those staying in shelter or living outdoors are counted where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

People away front their "usual residence" on Census Day, like on a vacation or traveling for work, should use their "usual residence", not where they are on Census Day.

What kind of information will be requested?

The Census Bureau will never ask for:

  • Social Security numbers.
  • Bank or credit card account numbers.
  • Money or donations.
  • Anything on behalf of a political party.

Will my information be kept confidential?

Strict federal law protects your census responses. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual. Census Bureau employees take a lifelong pledge of confidentiality to handle data responsibly and keep respondents information private. The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.

No law enforcement agency (not the DHS, ICE, FBI, or CIA) can access or use your personal information at any time. Data collected can only be used for statistical purposes that help inform important decisions, including how much federal funding your community receives. The Census Bureau has a robust cybersecurity program that incorporates industry best practices and federal security standards for encrypting data.

When will results from the census be available?

The nation should see the very first results from the 2020 Census in the form of total population counts for the nation and each state in late 2020 or early 2021. As required by law, the Census Bureau will provide these key demographic data to the states (on a state-by-state basis), so state governments can redraw the boundaries of their U.S. Congressional and state legislative districts. The law requires that the redistricting data must be delivered to state officials responsible for legislative redistricting within one year of Census day or no later than April 1, 2021. In 2021 each state receives local-level 2020 Census data on race and the voting age population.

Where can I go to learn more?

You can learn more about the 2020 census by visiting .