Census 2020

Counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Census is traditionally considered a decennial conversation between individual citizens and the federal government. After all, the language of the U.S. Constitution says nothing about state or city responsibility to help the federal government conduct the census. However, there are very important reasons for cities in Oregon and elsewhere to engage citizens and encourage them to participate in the census.

How is the Census Conducted?

The U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years by the Census Bureau. The census counts all persons in the United States, with a goal of counting all individuals in the country.  This requires several methods to cover the entire population, including:

  • Paper Questionnaires;
  • Online Questionaires;
  • Phone Questionaires;
  • In-Person Interviews; or
  • Proxy Interviews and Records Matching (if no one can be found or contacted).

The option to report via online or phone questionnaire is new for 2020 and is especially useful for the Census Bureau to receive accurate counts from people residing in areas where the census has limited resources and volunteers.

All persons in the U.S. are counted. People with no permanent address (such as those experiencing homelessness) are counted in place. Renters and college students who reside the majority of their time in a city are counted for that city. Non-citizens are counted as well, regardless of legal status. The only persons not included in this count are tourists and other people in the country as temporary visitors.

Completion of the 2020 Census is critical to our community, assuring we receive an accurate share of federal funding and political representation. 

- Mark Reagles, City Administrator, Rogue River

Important Dates

By April 1, 2020, 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.

View Overall Timeline

Impact in Your Community

Results from the 2020 Census can shape many different aspects of your community.

Learn more

What Questions are Being Asked?

The 2020 Census is easy.  The questions are simple.

See the Questions

Will the 2020 Census be Any Different?

As mentioned above, this will be the first time that the census will allow enumeration to be completed online and by phone. Additionally, the Census Bureau is using advanced methods to update and expand its Master Address File (MAF), a list of all addresses in the United States where individuals reside. This file can quickly become out of date following a decennial census, as new addresses are created, street names are changed, and some streets lose residents. To support the traditional updating methods available, the Census Bureau will be using satellite imaging to confirm addresses in more remote areas of the country. 

Why do the US Census Numbers Differ from Portland State University (PSU) Population Estimates?

This is a question often asked by both PSU and the LOC. According to Charles Rynerson from Portland State University’s Population Research Center (PRC):

“Both use the most recent decennial census as a baseline and estimate change that has occurred between the census and July 1 of the estimates year. As a member of the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates (FSCPE), PRC shares data with the Census Bureau and reviews Census Bureau estimates. However, the methodologies are slightly different.  For example: 1) Census Bureau city estimates are controlled to the county estimates; 2) PRC estimates are unchanged if cities do not return the population questionnaire; and 3) assumptions about the number of persons per housing unit may differ. Another major difference is that the PRC estimates are published several months earlier than the Census Bureau estimates.  State, county and city estimates are certified by PRC on December 15; the Census Bureau's city estimates are not published until the following May.”

PSU Population Research Center

Which Groups are Hardest to Count?

The Census Bureau designates several groups as being hard to count (HTC). These groups have been underreported in certain areas in the past or have persistently been difficult to enumerate over the years. These groups are:

•    Children under 5 years old;
•    Ethnic minorities;
•    Non-English speakers;
•    Recent immigrants;
•    Renters and overcrowded (i.e. above the listed capacity) housing units;
•    Gated communities and other residences with private driveways;
•    People displaced by natural disaster;
•    Persons experiencing homelessness;
•    Single-parent households; and
•    Residents that refuse to participate in the census

Since these groups are difficult to accurately count, underreporting can affect a city’s estimate and therefore effect its federal funding calculations, regional representation, and any data estimates derived from the count. 

Map of Undercounted Areas in Oregon

Is Your City Hard to CountLOC Bulletin, Oct. 25, 2019

RFP for Census Assistance Centers AnnouncedLOC Bulletin, Nov. 8, 2019

How Does the Census Benefit Cities?

Results of the census benefit cities in Oregon in several ways:

Representation
The primary constitutional purpose of the census is to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the fraction of the national population in each state. While it is important for individuals to know their congressperson, it is also important for fair representation of state and local government as cities, counties, and special districts also lobby on federal issues.

Funding
Over $800 billion of funding is distributed to state and local government annually. Block grants such as the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are allocated based on Census Bureau data. The allocation of this funding is largely based on the population counts in the decennial census as well as from the American Communities Survey (also conducted by the US Census Bureau). This is an important reason for cities to encourage all city residents to be counted. 

Research
Public, private and non-profit organizations benefit from the data collected in the decennial census. Remember that the census is not just a simple count of residents. Instead, it gathers a variety of demographic and economic data across the US that is used by cities to better understand their residents. City programs, zoning, and service provisions are often benchmarked against the data from the census. In many cases, city research (and LOC research) would be impossible without census data. 

How Can Cities Help?

The U.S. Census Bureau, along with the National League of Cities (NLC) has identified several things cities can do to aid census workers in their area.

Address Updates
Cities can help the Census Bureau complete an update of its Master Address File by participating in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) every 10 years. Unfortunately, November 2018 was the deadline for city submission in time for the 2020 Census. You can find out if your city, county and state participated by visiting the Census Bureau website. If your city has missed this deadline, there is an option to register ongoing construction projects through the New Construction Program

According the to the Census:

“The New Construction Program provides tribal, state, and local governments an opportunity to update the U.S. Census Bureau’s residential address list with living quarters for which construction is in progress during or after March 1, 2018 and completion is expected by Census Day, April 1, 2020.”

Education and Outreach
Cities are encouraged to use their social media and other communications channels to contact residents and encourage them to participate in the 2020 Census. Hard to count populations are especially important to have receive this message. Further, posting job notices in public areas for needed Census Enumerators can also be of great help, as the door-to-door enumeration requires many qualified applicants. 

Complete Count Committees 
The 2020 Census is a large undertaking for any level of government. As a result, the Census Bureau has encouraged the creation of Complete Count Committees (CCCs) in cities and local communities throughout the US. These CCCs are created from community volunteers and are tasked with community engagement and promoting census participation. In 2010, over 10,000 of these committees were created throughout the United States and can range in size from 3 to 5 to many dozens depending on the city’s individual needs. 

Besides general outreach, targeting the local hard to count populations to complete the census is a primary goal of CCCs. While outreach from local government is important, outreach from volunteers and neighbors can often be more effective. 

Resources on how to create a CCC, plans of action, and other materials can be found at the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

Download Complete Count Committee Pamphlet