2020 Census

Overview of the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey

The census is required by the U.S. Constitution and getting it right is important to everyone. A fair and accurate census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities generally, is among the most important civil rights issues of our day. An accurate census:

  • Directly affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to more than $600 billion a year in important governmental resources for all Americans;
  • Helps federal agencies monitor discrimination and implement civil rights laws that protect voting rights, equal employment opportunity, and more; and
  • Assists state and local leaders in identifying and addressing emerging needs for health care, education, housing, food and income security, rural access to broadband, and other services.

The American Community Survey (ACS) replaced the old census “long form” in 2005. It is an ongoing survey that is sent to a rolling sample of 295,000 addresses per month to produce updated, comprehensive demographic, social, and economic data between decennial censuses. Because it is part of the constitutionally mandated census, participation is required by law. There is no other source for the reliable, nationwide, community-level data gathered through the ACS.

Why the Census Counts (PDF)

The Census and Civil Rights (PDF)

The American Community Survey and Civil Rights (PDF)

Census and Fair, Equitable Distribution of Funds

Each person counted may directly determine funding levels for a few programs, and will influence funding levels for many others.

While we cannot say that each person counted in the census would increase federal program dollars to a state or locality by a certain amount, census results are of utmost importance to distributing federal funding — and doing so equitably and prudently.

A more accurate census will: (1) ensure that every community, as well as people and households in need, receive the federal resources to which they are entitled under all census-guided programs; and (2) ensure that lawmakers can make more informed decisions about how to allocate federal dollars fairly, prudently, and effectively.

Counting For Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds is a new analysis of the use of Census-derived data by 16 large federal programs.

How to use Counting for Dollars (PDF)

Census and Hard-to-Count Populations

The census has historically missed certain communities–communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants, and young children—at disproportionately high rates. Being undercounted deprives these communities of equal political representation and private and public resources.

To highlight why stakeholders must work together to ensure that communities are not missed in the census, on July 18, 2017, the Coalition on Human Needs, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Children’s Leadership Council, and the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law hosted a webinar titled “The 2020 Census: Why Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Count Matters.” View a recording of the webinar and slides from the presentation here.

Census Accuracy and the Undercount (PDF)

Mapping Hard-to-Count (HTC) Communities for a Fair and Accurate Census (interactive map)

Hard to Count: Young Children and Their Communities (PDF)

  • View Hard-to-Count State, City, and Congressional District Tables for Children under Age 5 here.

Will You Count? Latinos in the 2020 Census (PDF) 

  • View Hard-to-Count State, City, and Congressional District Tables for Latinos here.

Will You Count? Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) in the 2020 Census (PDF) 

  • View Hard-to-Count State, City, and Congressional District Tables for Asian Americans and NHPIs here.

Will You Count? African Americans in the 2020 Census (PDF)

  • View Hard-to-Count State, City, and Congressional District Tables for African Americans here.

Will You Count? American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 2020 Census (PDF)

  • View Hard-to-Count State, City, and Congressional District Tables for American Indians and Alaska Natives here.

Census, Citizenship, and Immigration/Legal Status

Both Republican and Democratic administrations, through the U.S. Department of Justice, have confirmed unequivocally that the Constitution requires a count of all persons living in the United States on Census Day, regardless of citizenship or legal status. Nonetheless, policymakers over the years have sought to add questions on citizenship and legal status to the 2020 Census form.

Citizenship and Immigration/Legal Status Questions on the 2020 Census: Preventing a Decennial Disaster (PDF)

Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census

The collection of accurate, comprehensive race and ethnicity data in the census is central to implementing, monitoring, and evaluating a vast range of civil rights laws and policies, from fair political representation and voting reforms, to equal opportunity and access across all economic and social sectors of society, including housing, education, health care, and the job market. The data provide evidence of disparate impact of governmental and private sector policies and practices, and assist civic and business leaders in devising solutions that promote equality of opportunity and address the needs of a diverse population.

Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multiethnic America is a comprehensive review of how census race and ethnicity data are used to advance equal opportunity and social justice, whether through statutes, regulations, or case law, and the potential implications of proposed revisions to the 2020 census race and ethnicity questions for continued, effective implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of civil rights protections.

Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Operation

Congress created the LUCA program in 1994 to facilitate state and local participation in building the all-important address list for each census. LUCA gives tribal, state, and local governments the opportunity to review and update the Census Bureau’s address list and digital maps for their areas, reflecting their knowledge of non-traditional and low visibility housing in their communities. Through LUCA, communities can help ensure that the census counts the residents of all housing units and puts them in the right place.

Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program (PDF)

2020 Census Toolkit

This toolkit aims to help civil rights and census advocates have educated and meaningful conversations with important audiences who can impact the efficacy of the 2020 Census – including elected officials, community leaders, members of the media, and opinion leaders at all levels. Everyone must be told about the importance of supporting a full and accurate 2020 Census.

Census 2020 Toolkit (PDF)


This Week in Civil Rights History: Anniversary of the First Census

Friday, July 31, 2009

On August 2, 1790, U.S. judicial marshals and their assistants began the first United States census, eventually tallying the entire population of the United States at 3.9 million, less than 13 percent of the current U.S. population.  The first census was scheduled to take only nine months and was executed by 17 judicial marshals assisted … Read More

Categories: Census, News

Census Funding in the Economic Recovery Package

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The recently enacted economic recovery package includes an additional $1 billion in funding for the 2010 Census, which will enable the Census Bureau to run the census more effectively.The money will be used to help the bureau hire temporary staff that will go door-to-door and help people fill out their census forms, fund promotional activities … Read More

Categories: Census, News

Fully Counting Latinos in the 2010 Census Presents Some Challenges

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and raids over the past few years has made Latinos fearful of giving information to the government, which creates challenges for civil rights organizations that are working to ensure that Latinos are fully counted in the 2010 census.During the last two censuses, the Census Bureau missed counting millions of people … Read More

Categories: Census, News