Census Counts All – and More Than Just People

The U.S. Census Bureau counts more than just people.

In a series of talks with National Press Foundation fellows, Census Bureau officials showed what is collects – and how reporters can access it.

The bureau’s best-known product is the decennial census, which has been done every 10 years since 1790. Census Day is April 1, documenting the number of people living in a household on that day. Babies born March 31, 2020, won’t count; those born April 1 will.

It’s vital information, used to determine congressional representation, state and local redistricting, and the allocation of $675 billion annually in federal funding. It’s also used by businesses, governments, and civic organizations to inform decision-making.

Other products the bureau produces:

  • The American Community Survey, an ongoing annual survey of the nation’s population that touches on family and household information.
  • The Census of Governments, which identifies the scope and nature of the nation’s state and local government sector.
  • The Economic Census, which is the five-year measure of American business. It’s one of 58 economic reports the Census Bureau produces.

As for the decennial census, Erika H. Becker-Medina of the census’ communications coordination office detailed for fellows how the count will be conducted, including showing new ways the Census Bureau will take responses. People will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail, in English or in one of 12 select languages.

Overall, 95% of households in the U.S. will receive their census invitations in the mail, about 5% will get it dropped off at another location, and fewer than 1% of households will give their census information to a Census Bureau worker at their doorstep. In-person mostly applies to remote areas such as northern Maine or remote Alaska.

The census will also be a massive temporary jobs boost in 2020. The bureau will recruit hundreds of thousands of people, and hire 500,000 of them, to help with the 2020 count.

This program is funded by Arnold Ventures. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

Erika Becker-Medina
Chief, Decennial Communications Coordination Office, U.S. Census Bureau
Frank McPhillips
Assistant division chief, geographic operations, Decennial Census Management Division, U.S. Census Bureau
Andrew Hait
Economist, Governments and Trade Management Division, U.S. Census Bureau
Tyson Weister
Program analyst, Center for Enterprise Dissemination, U.S. Census Bureau
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