About the Census
The decennial census plays a pivotal role in collecting and reporting data that is essential for the government, business, and nonprofits to function in supporting services for communities across Washington state.
This data is used to make decisions that impact every community across the country for the next 10 years on issues including redistricting, the enforcement of civil rights laws, education, and infrastructure funding, among others.
What to expect in 2020?
The 2020 Census will ask nine questions about a primary person in the household and fewer questions for all additional people in the household. Questions will include things like name, sex, age and date of birth, race, and how the people in the household are related to each other.
Starting March 12, people will receive letters in the mail with instructions on how to complete the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau will encourage people to respond online, but you can also complete the census by phone or mail.
An inaccurate census count is not just about data. Real people will be impacted for the next decade.
What could we lose if we undercount communities?
Hundreds of federal financial assistance programs rely on census data to guide the distribution of funds to states, counties, cities, and households. In 2015, Washington received about $14 billion, about $2,000 per person, for the 16 largest census-guided programs, which include:
- Highway Planning and Construction
- Special Education Grants
- School Lunch Programs
- Head Start/Early Head Start
- Health Center Programs
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance
- Foster Care
- Children’s Health Insurance Program
Census data is used to determine the number of Congressional and Legislative seats each state receives. Based on 2010 census data, Washington earned a 10th seat in Congress.
The data is also used to draw new boundary lines for voting districts. This process, called redistricting, determines the political representation of all communities. The redistricting process can keep communities together or split them apart.
There is a high risk of losing vital resources and service providers if Washington state is undercounted.
Who is traditionally undercounted?
The census has historically undercounted
certain communities, including people of color, young children, lower income
persons, people who do not speak English fluently, undocumented immigrants,
Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, people experiencing homelessness, and
those who distrust the government.
These are the very communities that are in
need of equal representation in our government. If they are not counted
accurately in the census, they are at risk of being further disenfranchised
from our government and services.
Why is there a risk of an even more significant undercount in 2020?
Insufficient Funding for Field Operations
The Census Bureau has been underfunded for the 2020 cycle, already resulting scaled back operations that affect outreach strategies for historically undercounted communities.
Fear of Sharing Information
There will NOT be a question about citizenship or immigration status on the 2020 Census, as a result of a 2019 supreme court ruling. It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share information with ICE, law enforcement, public assistance programs, or other agencies. However, the failed efforts of the current administration to add a question about citizenship have created enormous distrust and leave a huge task for community leaders and allies to encourage people to take the census.
The Digital Divide
For the first time, the 2020 Census will be conducted primarily online. Although this may be an initial cost-saving measure, it puts historically undercounted communities and rural populations at risk of being undercounted, particularly areas with limited to no access to broadband.
The Trump administration’s openly hostile rhetoric and policies towards people of color, immigrants and low-income individuals has created more distrust around the census.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequent questions and answers about the 2020 Census
Every 10 years, we count everyone in the country. Everyone means everyone, because we are all here and we all count: all residents of every ethnicity, regardless of immigration status, including kids, seniors, military members, and people experiencing homelessness.
Counting people through the census is how funding is distributed where it’s needed for the next ten years—for things like our schools, affordable housing, hospitals, and public transportation. The count also determines how many representatives we’ll have in Congress.
By completing the census, you are saying you count. That helps ensure our whole community is accurately reflected in the data that determines the funding and representation we get.
Starting March 12, people will receive letters in the mail with instructions on how to complete the 2020 Census. Until July 31, you can complete the census online, by mail, or over the phone.
Everyone should be counted once—that means all residents of every ethnicity, regardless of immigration status, including kids, seniors, military members, and people experiencing homelessness.
The 2020 Census will ask nine questions about a primary person in the household and fewer questions for all additional people in the household. By law, your answers are protected and confidential. It is illegal for the U.S. Census Bureau to share information with your landlord, law enforcement, or other agencies.
The 2020 Census will not ask if you’re a U.S. citizen. By law, your census answers cannot be shared with ICE, other law enforcement, public assistance programs, or other agencies, and cannot be used to identify people for deportation.
Historically, the communities most undercounted typically face the following barriers:
- Language and cultural barriers
- Mistrust in government
- Privacy/cybersecurity concerns
- Lack of a stable home
- People with low incomes
- Nontraditional living arrangements
- Lack of reliable broadband or internet access
For support starting March 1, you can call the Census Bureau’s help line:
- English 844-330-2020
- Spanish 844-468-2020
- Chinese (Mandarin) 844-391-2020
- Chinese (Cantonese) 844-398-2020
- Vietnamese 844-461-2020
- Korean 844-392-2020
- Russian 844-417-2020
- Arabic 844-416-2020
- Tagalog 844-478-2020
- Polish 844-479-2020
- French 844-494-2020
- Haitian Creole 844-477-2020
- Portuguese 844-474-2020
- Japanese 844-460-2020
- English (Puerto Rico) 844-418-2020
- Spanish (Puerto Rico) 844-426-2020
- Telephone Display Device (TDD) 844-467-2020